“The American Dream”

What does this eternal pursuit of “The American Dream” mean to us as Americans? Based on our exploration of the American dream in reading American authors accounts and through the experiences of immigrants and natives alike, I do not think that a definitive single answer exists for this question. As Jack Keroac and the Beatniks were always seemingly chasing “it” across the nation, in search of that ultimate answer to what America is really about, so we, as individuals and as members of an American identity, have to discover that “it” in our way and under our own rules.

When James Fennimore Cooper was contemplating the character of Natty Bumpo in “The Deerslayer” I think he was exploring the search for that ambiguaous quality of America through the eyes of a character who was attempting to occupy both the world of the immigrant and the world of the native. When Gloria Anzualda expressed both the disillusionment and hope of existing on “la frontera” as a mestiza in “La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness”, she was expressing the search for a place to occupy America which was comfortable, at the least, for the stranger in a strange land, even if that land is, supposedly, his own.

The “American Dream” cannot truly said to be unattainable unless that dream is personalized upon another person by projection. What another person may see, in perspective, as happiness or a constructive existence or fulfillment on some level, may not jibe with the attributes you give to the same subjects. What another person may view as “success” or “failure” may not equivocate your own ideas of the same based on their knowledge, their experiences in life and their motives.  It is only when we try to assign a certain set of parameters to attaining “The American Dream” that we run into roadblocks and perceptual failures.

There are many examples of the American dream and equally many approaches to whether that vision was brought to fruition. A prime example would be the writing of the U.S. Constitution, itself a calling for the pursuit of the American dream as envisioned by a certain group of individuals in American history. Repeatedly, historians wrestle with the effectiveness of the Constitution as a catalyst for attaining the American Dream. Those who support the idea that it was(and is) successful point to the specific rights and freedoms guaranteed by the articles. Those who oppose the idea point to the numerous injustices which have not been solved with the implementation of Constitutional law. In some sense, both parties are right but both parties are also not viewing the big picture. Perhaps the attainment of this vision cannot be fulfilled by implementation of laws, rules, regulation alone. There is something about living your life as you desire which transcends rule of law and indoctrination. The “American Dream” can be viewed as the fulfillment of personal as well as collective aspirations. It can be something as grand as composing a just government or as small as sleeping in peace at night.  Many immigrants were seeking the American Dream in response to persecutions suffered within their country of origin while others pursued a type of dream grounded  in opportunities in business, exploration or innovation as well as having the freedom to live their lives in any way that they deemed to be comfortable “in their own skin”.

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