Lisa Nichols

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Lisa Nichols

3rd place adult essay
The New American Dream

“Give me you tired, your poor,

Your huddles masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I life my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus
When Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus in 1883, she was living in a time when immigration in America was prominent. It is my interpretation that the “old” American dream was exactly what she was referring to in her poem. The very symbol of this country, built before our time, at the birth of this nation, welcomes immigrants with open arms by displaying Lazarus’ poem. Knowing that we all have foreign roots, it is interesting to know that xenophobia, the fear of foreign things, is so prominent in this culture. One major factor in the disintegration of this country is the inability for some people to accept that this is not their country; it is our country. The United States was formed by a melting pot of races and cultures. For contemporary Americans to deny the possibility of a better life to one that is willing to work for it is hypocritical. It is time we stop accusing our neighbors and start questioning the teachings of our government. Quite possibly the problem does not lie in the growing number of illegal immigrants but maybe it is the close-minded way we have been governed.

America has lost much of its grounded, honest, personal opinions because of an accumulation of things. For example, many in this society base success on material possession and financial status. This could be because it is out nature to follow by example: we are taught that money equals happiness. The truth is we are being sut up to fail by individuals who are willing to manipulate the public in order to reach a personal goal. The Mossbacher’s, a ‘well-off’ family in T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain, are a good example that money rarely brings happiness. As quoted in part two, chapter one,

“He wasn’t materialistic, not really, and he never bought anything on impulse, but when he did make a major purchase he felt good about it, good about himself, the future of the country and the state of the world. That was the American way. Buy something. Feel godd. But he didn’t feel good, not at all. He felt like a victim” (pg 149).

Kyra and Delaney Mossbacher are always in search of more than what they have available. It is because of this selfish hunger for more that the Candidos and Americas of this country are becoming the financial majority. This is the reason the ‘old’ American dream has become outdated; we have since moved on to a dream of an empathetic society.

In preschool, children in this country are taught to be tolerant because no one person is any better than another. It is not certain why, but this message seems to get lost in the years of aging. A very small percentage of U.S. citizens hold the majority of America’s assets. Ironically, it is often the physical laborers, such as America and Candido, who are paying the price for the affluent lives of others.

“[America] held her hands up to the light then and saw that the skin had begun to crack and peel and that all the color had gone out of the flesh. These weren’t her hands—they were the hands of a corpse” (pg 131).

America did not demand workers compensation or more money. Instead, she was worried that she could not clean as many Buddha’s as the day before, thus not earning her twenty-five dollars. All money set aside, America and Candido would have done twice as much work just to have eaten the “patron’s” scrapes or slept in his doghouse. With this in mind it is obvious how selfish many in this country have become. With a sympathetic mindset the improvements for all citizens of this country would be never-ending.

The foreigners that relocate to this country are not altogether unwilling to lawfully become citizens. Through multiple reserves, the process can be explained and offered to almost anyone. The problem that has our borders so active is the lack of help available and/or training for becoming a law abiding American citizen.

“[Candido had …] taken America from her father so they could have a better life, so they could live in the North, where it was green and lush the year round and the avocados rotten on the ground, and everyone, even the poorest, had a house, a car and a TV—and now he couldn’t even put food in her mouth” (pg 26).

Providing people like Candido, individuals interested in becoming hard-working citizens, with a vast amount of training facilities would benefit many people, foreign or not. With a larger number of willing, available aides Candido and America could have learned a second language, been educated about U.S. laws, found a half-way house and been provided with job training or employment opportunities. All of which would provide more jobs for unemployed U.S. citizens. This could all be possible with fair taxing, conscience spending and genuine compassion for others.

Closing off our borders is not the answer to a better or more successful American way of living. If this type of ethnocentric governing continues, so will our growing number of enemies. We, as a country, need to refer to our preschool teachings, or better yet, T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain. Kyra, America, Delaney and Candido have hoisted up a new American dream.

Let us strive for the goal we only talk about, but have yet to live—

Let us strive to be a

tolerant, empathetic, ever evolving

America society.
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