6 April 2012
The American Dream:
More Than Just Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet
Having freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to work and earn money and a name for your family. This is just some of what makes up the American dream. This dream is something that people across the world think about, and is something that American citizens by birth are fortunate enough to not even have to preoccupy themselves with. For some people, the opportunity to work and achieve this dream is given to them by being born in the United States. Others wait years to get to America to start working towards achieving those dreams, and to join the millions of people who have already come here are working hard every day to reach that dream. If that dream was easy to achieve, it would not be something that is coveted by so many people outside of the United States borders. For many years, there have been many obstacles for people to overcome in order to just get in to our country, before they can even start working towards the American dream, and when they get here, the obstacles are not over. Each individual has a different idea of what the American dream means to them, but the obstacles to achieving these dreams are almost always the same for all people. There are things that make getting to America to start achieving dreams difficult, and then there are things that make achieving those dreams difficult, but at the end of the day, the American dream is adaptable and there are many ways that people can go about achieving their dreams when injustice gets in the way of achieving their dreams.
Getting here and into the country is the first and often the biggest obstacle on the journey of accomplishing the American Dream. Some may not appreciate how difficult it actually is to make a name as an immigrant to the United States. While many Americans know how difficult it is to find a good job in the American economy today, most probably do not realize how difficult it is to actually get in to this country. Without the symbols of immigration, such as Ellis Island, that were once the picture of immigration in America, the process of actually getting into this country have become a mystery to people who are natural- born citizens. Years ago, Ellis Island was the site of hope for many people who were just entering our country, and was also the site of despair for people who had been turned away. In “More than Just a Shrine—Ellis Island,” Mary Gordon described her realizations and thoughts when she was walking through the Great Hall. “The implications for the rejected were dreadful. For some there was nothing to go back to, or certain death.” People were turned away for many reasons, including their health, their country of origin, and the capacity of not only the Ellis Island holding area, but also the capacity of immigrants that had been set by our country. Even though today there is no site like Ellis Island where people come and get admitted or get turned away from the USA, that does not mean that it is not still happening or that getting in is not one of the biggest obstacles. There is an even more rigorous process now in place for people who want to come to our country that includes outrageous amounts of paperwork and health checks in their home country. Instead of being able to hold on to the American dream while coming here on a boat as it once was, now people don’t even have the chance to come at all because they know they will not be allowed to stay as citizens. Overcoming the initial obstacle of achieving the American dream is usually one of the hardest steps, but it is definitely not the last step in trying to achieve dreams.
If and when some immigrants get into our country, they are inevitably forced to start at the bottom of the “totem pole” in the working world, with many other out of work employees or employees who are new to the American workforce. Many immigrants that do not have an education or connections here in America, start off working minimum wage jobs, if they are lucky. Even some people who have been in America for their entire lives are forced to settle for minimum wage jobs, because there are not many employment opportunities out there these days that are better. As Barbara Ehrenreich, a writer who wanted to experience the lives of the people that she was writing about, found in her experiment, it is not easy to find a minimum wage job. The pay for these minimum wage jobs is definitely not enough based on the amount of work that these employees actually do on any given day. Ehrenreich describes her typical day, and it becomes apparent after her description of the work that she has done, that these jobs often require a lot of work that earns them very little pay. In some cases, this money is not enough to live off of and some people are forced to get a second or third job that only pays minimum wage. The American dream is about being happy, but it is also about earning enough to have a nice life, having the potential to move up within the work environment as well as having the potential to move up economically in society. Immigrants and people who are new to the United States should have the potential to earn a living here, but there are barriers in today’s economy because it is difficult to find any job, let alone a minimum wage job that may be enough or just enough to cover the cost of living.
For many, the American dream changes throughout the course of a lifetime. Some believe the way to achieve the American dream is through sacrificing their bodies in order to showcase their abilities on a sports team, and Americans love their athletes. As a young man, Elwood Reid played football because he was expected to by his father and coaches due to his size. He really wanted to be a writer, but he pushed that desire away in order to achieve what his father and coached dreamt about for him, which was having the opportunity to play college football. American football is a timeless tradition in the United States of America, and many young boys dream of playing college and even professional football. But other young men have different dreams that they believe cannot be achieved, so their dreams adapt and change. Elwood Reid, who became a writer after his time as a football player, wrote an article about his experience titled, “My Body, My Weapon, My Shame.” This article connects with the American dream because it is the perfect example of conforming to what others believe is the American dream instead of working to achieve what it is that an individual truly wants. Reid describes how he is ashamed about what he did on the football field, stating, “I did bad things for football. Because I could.” When he finally was in college and on the University of Michigan football team, which in the opinion of others, was a dream come true for him, his life was changed through the experience, both for the good and the bad. But he could never stop thinking about how much he just wanted to be a writer, and he did not want to let that dream get away from him. When an injury sidelined him for life, he was able to pursue that dream of being a writer. This connects with the American dream of opportunity. He “struck out” while trying to achieve one dream, but he was still able to pursue other dreams after his football career was over.
Some could say that if people want to make it here in America, then they need to be willing to go through the hardships in order to achieve the American dream. However, with such high walls preventing people from getting into the United States, it would seem to make sense that once these immigrants are deemed good enough to get in to the country, they should be able to have enough opportunities here. It is unfortunate, but there are many things that unfairly prevent immigrants from fully achieving the American dream, and the dreams are forced to change from time to time.
The American dream is all about having the opportunity to pursue any dream that you want, regardless of how many previous dreams have failed. It is about working hard and being willing to go the extra mile for your job in order to get a step ahead of the competition. Many immigrants try to fight through the rules and regulations that stand in their way of achieving these dreams, and some succeed. But more often, even though it is unfair to these people, the initial dreams that they had when they were coming here with have to be changed in order to fit their true situation. It is difficult for many to achieve, but once obstacles of getting into the USA, and getting a job that pays enough money to live a comfortable life have been overcome, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to say that you made a name for yourself in the greatest country in the world.