Unfulfilled American Dreams?

In response to a post I put up on my blog asking the question ‘What does it mean to be an American?’, immediately many themes jumped up and presented themselves through the comments that followed. What also jumped up was a combative tone that made itself apparent in a nasty exchange between respondents. People like to brawl on the Internet. You see it on fB all the time. Politics always manages to shove its way to the front of our public discourse in a tone that reflects a serious dissatisfaction. Here is a string of comments in response to that post:

Respondent 1: America is a place of hopes, but don’t you think that people coming into this country should live by America’s rules and not have all these new rules to suit them? Our country’s rules should not be changed for them. Americans don’t go to other countries and get rules changed to suit there needs. Try going to China or Russia and see what happens.

Respondent 2: I agree completely. And make no mistake, under no circumstances should we change the American rules or laws for anyone. 

Respondent 3: Rules changed with the discovery of America, Independence Day, the Civil War, freedom of slavery and now actual freedom of religion. Our laws are not changing, they are being added. You hear incorrect information on media outlets; it is always best to read the actual laws and you will see that our rules are not being changed, just making them fair for ALL.

Respondent 4: America…represents the promise of Individualism… and the Freedom to act upon the resources of individual intellect, ability, drive, determination, innovation and invention. Under the Left…that promise is sublimated to Collectivism…and what the individual can do for the Hive. What it once meant to BE an American….has been whored to the disqualifying ideology which says that all of those attributes of our individuality are owed to everyone. ****  you Hillary and Bernie… One of you belongs in prison…the other of you doesn’t belong on these shores.And both of you are Sophomorically, Intellectually bankrupt.

Respondent 1 to Respondent4: No one, in my experience, who thinks they’re as smart as u think u are, is in reality anywhere near that smart.

Respondent 4 to Respondent 1: BnP?..doesn’t matter what you may happen to think?…I have the acknowledgement of the academic community, specifically regarding that reality… and having an ego doesn’t set aside that reality. So?…you…are back to square one.

Respondent 1: Being abusive and arrogant is no excuse for being able to find common ground, and persuade others to your point. It’s intellectually lazy to simply browbeat and condescend to “inferiors”. What’s really impressive, is the ability to use logic and humility to lead men.

Respondent 5: Here we go….. Entitlement!

Respondent 4: I am PURPOSELY abusive and arrogant me luv! It’s precisely owing to the facade of social nicety…which has lead to the unthethered and retiring intellectual climate in this Country… in which the Hillary’s, Bernie’s, Trump’s and Carson’s could EVER find Political purchase within the minds of our electorate to begin with. So?..NO!..I have no more patience left.. after 40+ years of hearing the justification and seeing the results. And Humility!?…. is for SLAVES…either to a god figure…or to the god of State. No ****ing more!

I’ve added the asterisks.

Yesterday, I travelled to Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, MA to discuss all this with my friend Jolyn who teaches a course there on the topic of what it means to be an American. Jolyn uses American literature and American history as the course reading material. I will post some of what she had to say in an upcoming video, but for now it is safe to say that I came away with more questions after her answers to the ones I’ve already asked. The first is: Have we as American’s been sold a bill of goods that leads us to have unreasonable expectations? The second is: When those expectations are not met, what happens?

For example, I posed a question to my oldest friend Lee  whom I have known from grade school when I travelled to Connecticut last Saturday and discussed this issue with him over dinner. Lee is a very successful businessman and a wonderful father and husband. He has met one interpretation of the American dream by doing better than his father economically. He has done much better as a father than his dad, and also values his own children’s success not in dollars but in happiness. But if American’s continue to interpret the idea of doing better than their parents in dollar terms where does that end? That was my question to him. He had no immediate answer but to tell me the things he does for children are to support them in whatever it is they need to be happy. He understands that his love is more important than his money.

Remember the pursuit of happiness? We can’t just expect to continue doing better than our parents in economic terms in this country because, if we do, where does that end? Is the nature of the respondents’ exchange I’ve included above a result of anger over unfulfilled expectations, and, if so , what are those unfulfilled expectations and why do they registered with such anger?

So, my next big questions are: have we evolved as Americans to measure happiness too much in dollar terms and not enough in human terms? What has that done to us if true? Are we just angry now as a country? Disappointed and bitter? The spin off questions are: what do we really want for our children, and can we redefine the meaning of happiness that has been perhaps misdefined in our national vocabulary?

Hill On wheels will hit the road on Friday looking for answers to those questions!

Bash Bish Falls, MA

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About Eric Hill

A director, actor and writer with fifty years of professional theater experience and a love of nature, I am creating a blog for people who love the outdoors and finding great cultural sites and adventures across America. I have a Arrow Wood Starcraft AR ONE camper and Canon70 D that goes with me everywhere. It's capable of highest DSLR functions including still photography and 4G videos. Oh, yes, I've also got my black lab Gaia who also goes everywhere with me. We'll be traveling across America and brining our adventures in incredible places, meeting amazing people home to you right here at Hill On Wheels!
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3 Responses to Unfulfilled American Dreams?

  1. Wow, those comments – why are people so rude online…?
    Anyway. In answer to your first question, I believe America is a grand experiment. And like many experiments, it fails, then succeeds, then fails again, etc. We are a work in progress, and are meant to be so. An experiment in freedom of expression, personal liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with a strong eye towards justice and equality and for all. This is a mighty endeavor, perhaps unprecedented in human history. Certainly a defining milestone of however long the age of Western Civilization endures.
    So why are people in America so angry? So violent? So full of fear and hatred – or so it would seem? I do believe we are distracted by greed, by envy, by hatred of the ‘other’, and by the plagues of the human spirit. And there may be many reasons for this – our enterprising spirit as a nation has evolved into a sense of entitlement to the ‘good life’. We continue to be corroded by the deep and excruciating contradictions of our history/present – how could the pursuit of happiness for all exist in the context of slavery? Women have had the vote for less than 100 years, and we are still struggling to close the wage gap. A black boy in America is more likely to end up in prison than go to college – in the 21st century. Indeed we imprison more of our population than any other industrialized nation. We are fearful of terrorism (perhaps rightly so). We are plagued by homegrown, senseless violence that boggles the mind and shrivels the spirit – yet we seem incapable of doing anything to stop it. And no, we do not, cannot, expect to enjoy a continually upwardly mobile economic status in comparison to our parents, for so many reasons, not the least of which may be the not yet truly felt effects of climate change – yet the ‘quality of life’ of billionaires just seems to escalate in ever more fantastical ways, and we know this because we watch television.
    Our experiment is floundering, from this point of view. Yet I am so hopeful that your blog may reveal a hopeful potential. Because I do believe that the aims of this American experiment – liberty, freedom, justice, equality – are the truest and most humanitarian aims a society can embrace. So there must be some chance for us, still. Our roots, contradictory as they may be, are seeded in the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, in the thinking of the incredible philosophers and artists and scientists and activists who founded and nurtured this country on our path to today. Let us not fail them. Let us not fail them.
    Please come visit me in Chicago.

    Like

  2. finefix43 says:

    Unhappiness has no boundaries — it is part and parcel of all classes from the poor to the rich. The wealthy are simply more physically comfortable while wallowing in fear, depression, rage and dissatisfaction. They are junkies for all the food things, especially power. Death is the great leveler, isn’t it. Everyone dies. The wealthier, the more powerful obsess over their legacy, as if anyone cares. People think the new car is going to make a difference, or the new partner, or the new cheese grater or the new pet. We are ever dissapointed, and we ever want the new-new. It might be a cliche, but it is also achingly, profoundly true that happiness emerges from our inner lives, and the compassion, honesty and kindness which has the potential to surface in each new moment.

    Liked by 1 person

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