What is the American Dream? I recently heard a program on NPR that discussed how home ownership is a huge part of the American Dream, because Americans don’t want landlords sitting on their backs. It’s true. I don’t want landlords sitting on my back. I also don’t want banks sitting on my back if a mortgage payment is late. It’s probably fair to say that I don’t want anyone sitting on my back, because that’s no fun. Do you know who else doesn’t want anyone sitting on their back? The whole world.
The American Dream was never about whatever material possession Americans currently want. It was the idea that America, as a new country, could offer something new. It was about freedom. That’s a loaded word, and I’m sure that slaves and American Indians would have had a thing or two to say about it at the time. But people flocked to America, hoping for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from poverty.
The American Dream is the idea that in American, anyone can be anything. I think it’s true that America offers many opportunities. It is possible to go from rags to riches. (Possible, but not likely.) There is a large measure of freedom of speech. It’s not perfect, but lets be real: the thousands of people who bash Obama today are probably still going to be here to bash him again tomorrow. (A moment of silence for those massacred in Syria.)
I fully support those who are motivated to make positive change in this country, I’m just pointing out that it’s a more decent place than we often make it out to be. That’s why people all over the world want to come here. A lot of people. They can’t all come because we have countries and borders, which are necessary so that American law enforcement doesn’t all hop over to Amsterdam and start arresting people for smoking cannabis, and so that Saudi law enforcement doesn’t all hop over to America to start arresting women for driving. That’s why America has many undocumented “citizens”, and I use that word in it’s earlier definition to mean “inhabitants of a city or country.”
Although country borders are necessary, immigration is a rigid, legalistic system that sometimes unnecessarily hinders the natural, organic movements of humans. My in-laws want to come see their new grandbaby. Great! They just have to get a couple of governments to sign off on it first. I have friends, former classmates, and several friends-of-friends who are undocumented. That’s why I support the DREAM Act, which has been proposed to offer a path to legal status for some undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as minors, completed a certain level of education, and maintained “good moral character.” I was happy to see that Obama is attempting to address this issue. I just hope that the round-about method doesn’t railroad efforts for a more permanent solution. Because the American Dream is not about buying a house. It’s the dream that we can build a country where the circumstances of your birth don’t dictate who you can become.