|Challenges in Obtaining the American Dream
Since I was a child, everyone has talked to me about the “American Dream”. The American Dream is that if you work hard, you can and will be successful in life. Growing up in America and coming from a family that has encountered financial struggles because of the great recession recently has made me aware that I have been blessed and fortunate throughout my life. I have been a part of my parents American Dream and wreaked the benefits of their success. The recent immigrants, legal and illegal, of the United States are not as lucky as I have been in their life. There are many things complicating people from achieving the American Dream, let alone the recent immigrants’ abilities. Many things must go in favor for someone to even try and be able to achieve the American Dream. Physical condition, American citizenship, and family background affect the ability to be successful and achieve the American Dream.
To achieve a version of the American dream, many people put everything on the line even when they cannot afford to. An example of this is Elwood Reid, a college football player who played for the University of Michigan in the late ‘70s. Through his short story “My Body, My Weapon, My Shame”, the reader learns about how football players give up their bodies to achieve their dream of being a starter on the football field. Reid gave up his body throughout the years to play football, and to start his American Dream by getting a degree from a top university. He played through the pain in his hands, the numbness in his arms, and the crunchy sound in his neck. He played even when he was not able to lift his arms above his head. (Reid, ) Besides playing football, Mr. Reid gave up his body to fit in with the football players. A version of most people’s dreams and part of the American dream is to have a social life, to fit in and to be accepted. To belong with the football team, Reid tortured his body because to the outside world, it made him seem invincible. He put out cigarettes on the back on his palms and punched a frat boy in the face, only because he could and wanted to appear invincible to the outside world (Reid, p. 218-219). This torture of his body made his journey to achieve the American Dream even harder. He was taken off of the team because he could not play after his sophomore year because of neck problems and loss of feeling in his arms (Reid, p. 220). Not having the same physical strength as he did before college made his football career end, which stunted the process of achieving his American dream. Because Reid was no longer allowed to play football, his scholarship was lost and his funding for attending the University of Michigan no longer existed (Reid, p. 221). The economic situation of Reid’s family was not very good at that time, and they preferred that Reid have a football scholarship to fund his tuition. However, Reid graduated the University of Michigan from the Creative Writing MFA Program (Reid, Wikipedia) and has written many novels and scripts for episodes of T.V. shows such as Hawaii Five-O and Cold Case (Reid, IMDb). His success has shown that even though his physical condition was destroyed when it mattered most, he persevered and became successful. He had many things going in his favor to achieve the American Dream, including being a citizen of the United States.
Being a legal citizen of the United States has an overwhelming advantage when trying to achieve the American Dream. In the movie “La Misma Luna”, a Mexican women Rosario crosses the boarder with her friend to search for a better life for her and her son. However, she leaves her son Carlitos behind when she crosses. Years later, once his grandma passes away, he leaves to find his mother (Riggen, 2007). Rosario’s American Dream is to have a better life than she had in Mexico because her economic and living situation and to be with her son Carlitos. Since Rosario ran away and crossed the boarder illegally, she is an illegal citizen of the United States of America. Because she is an illegal citizen, her actions and choices as to finding a job were limited. Rosario ended up working in the U.S. by cleaning houses for the extremely wealthy and babysitting children (Riggen, 2007). Most people do not define the American dream as cleaning wealthy individuals’ houses and babysitting their children, however; this life is better than her old life in Mexico. If Rosario were not an illegal citizen, she would have the possibility to obtain a job at a real company and earn more than minimum wage. Another part of Rosario’s “American Dream” is to have her son Carlitos live with her in California. Because Rosario is an illegal immigrant, Carlitos cannot cross the boarder to America unless he does it illegally. If she was a legal immigrant, she could have Carlitos cross the boarder without any problems. One of the solutions for bringing Carlitos to the United States is by marrying Paco, the security guard who is a United States citizen, because then Rosario would become a legal citizen of the United States (Riggen, 2007). Even though Rosario was an illegal citizen, her American Dream came true because Carlitos and her lived together in America at the end of the movie. Persistence and hard work are two things needed to achieve the American Dream. Even if one comes from nothing, they can still turn themselves into something.
The living situation and background one comes from can affect their success in achieving the American Dream. Serving in Florida is an article about a successful American woman, Barbara Enrenreich, who leaves all of her money and belongings behind to work at a minimum wage job in Florida. She worked at Hearthside, a local restaurant, for $2.43 plus tips (Enrenreich, p. 350). This job doesn’t sound pleasing one bit, especially for only being paid $2.43 an hour. Enrenreich was trying to live the life of individuals who make minimum wage. Most of the people who Enreneich worked with came from bad backgrounds, which did not allow them to get a degree from a college or university. Because they did not have any form of degree or college education, they were not able to get a job that pays a decent yearly salary. Employers hire more qualified people everyday to work for them. It is essential to have a degree to get a job in today’s job market. If one comes from a very poor background, chances are they can’t afford to pay for college. This puts them at a disadvantage already because they didn’t even have the opportunity to get a higher education, which sets individuals up for a completion of the American Dream. The background one comes from needs to have a little extra cash so one can afford to go to school. Without some form of college degree, achieving the American Dream in today’s society is nearly impossible.
Times are tough in today’s society and obtaining a job is harder than it ever has been in the past. There are many things that complicate individuals from achieving the American Dream. If one is not in the right mindset to succeed, they will not succeed. Most people have to have a numerous amount of things go their way for them to even have a chance at achieving the American Dream. There are many things that can cause an American Dream to not occur such as the way one was raised, the citizenship of a person, or the state of one’s mindset and body. Whatever the case, the American Dream is possible if one works hard and believes in themselves that they can be successful.
Enrenreich, Barbara. Serving in Florida. 2000. Print.
Reid, Elwood. My Body, My Weapon, My Shame. 1997. Print.
Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna). Dir. Patricia Riggen. Perf. Kate del Castillo, Adrian Alonso, Eugenio Derbez, America Ferrara. Dolby Digital, 2007. DVD.
“Elwood Reid”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia, Inc. Web. 5 April. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elwood_Reid
“Elwood Reid”. Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Amazon.com. 5 April. 2012. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1277149/