What exactly IS the American dream?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve heard that phrase but I’ve never quite grasped its full meaning.  At times I thought I understood it but at other times I wasn’t quite sure.  It was all kinda vague. And now, at this ripe old age, that same  refrain still begs and asks that question. Furthermore,  I would not be surprised if many others share that same uncertainty though they might be ashamed to admit it. In my particular case however, a young kid, knowing only poverty, the concept of an American dream was far beyond my comprehension. In fact, even beyond the comprehension of the adults that surrounded me.  And so, the concept of an ‘american dream’ escaped me, even into my adulthood. As time moved on however, it no longer mattered. Life went on, and as my personal circumstances improved, the question of an american dream was no longer relevant to me.

As it is my nature to be curious about almost everything however, I was still intrigued about the continued use of the phrase; especially since it is used constantly, almost to the point of monotony. So, one day when I had nothing else to do, I decided to dig deeper into its origin. First stop, Wikipedia, where I found James Truslow Adams, the man who first defined the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement.” Impressed by that definition I made a visit to Ellis Island.

ELLIS ISLAND

I could only imagine the euphoria those refrugees felt when they stepped on  shore; and who would they find there to greet them but Lady Liberty.

LADY LIBERTY

What I learned there opened my understanding and my appreciation as to what acheivements were possible, acheivements made possible by the United States of America.

When I was a school boy, I was naively led to understand that the american dream meant one thing, and one thing only, that is, that anyone could grow up to be  president. It didn’t include other signs of success. Since I knew it was unlikely I would ever become the president of the United States I concluded I would never attain the american dream .
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Later, I have come to learn the American dream means more than just the right to be free, it is also the right to pursue your dreams and goals; it your right to free speech, as well as the right to demonstrate and to assemble;  in general the right to pursue all that is legal.

Yes, there have been ugly periods in our history, witness: slavery, racism, Japanese internment, Native American atrocities, the inability of women to vote. These are nightmares that have at times marred the American dream. Some still exist. As we have progressed as a people however, many of those blotches have been eradicated. Others issues still remain and must be addressed if we are to truly attain that ‘more perfect union.’

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The United States is a relatively young country and still have much to learn, despite some of its shortcomings. A brighter day however always dawns over the horizon for our country.

There are varied examples that depict the face of  the American dream. This is one.

WALL STREET MOGUL

Follow my next blog: May 30, 2012

 
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SAYINGS I WISH WOULD GO AWAY

For years I have wanted to do away with those mindless words and cliches that have trivialized our everyday speech. Take for example, the overused phrase of ‘the middle of nowhere’  Can anyone in the world tell me where I can find ‘nowhere? and if so, how would I know it once I was in the middle of it?

Could this be perhaps the elusive NOWHERE?

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How about this one: ‘illegitimate child‘ ?  Although a child conceived out of wedlock is considered illegal, it is the behavior of the parents that are illegal, not the child. Therefore, the term illegitimate, as it pertains to the child is, in fact, an oxymoron and I wish it would go away.

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Here’s another worn-out phrase: “caught between a rock and a hard place” Instead, how about saying “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” one of my favorite expressions. For those of you who are mythologically challenged however, and asking themselves ‘what the heck is Scylla and Charybdis?,  here’s the story. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus was challenged to navigate  his crew past two narrow passageways and into the open sea. On either passageway however, there lurked  a hideous monster. One was named Scylla, the other named Charybdis. Either choice however, threatened immediate death for the crew. Fortunately the hero survived but sadly, many of his sailors were killed. So, whenever I find myself in a situation where there are no good options, I consider that I am caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

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HEBREW MAN

Due to the influence of the Yiddish word (yatata, yatata) the expression yada, yada was born and used to imitate many people talking at once.

There is one saying however, I wish never to hear again; that is the expression ‘jew’m down’, a slur used by many uninformed people and needs to be erased from our vocabulary forever.

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In recent years it seems cliches have hit the sports scene in a big way. The biggest saying these days is now: step up to the plate. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big baseball fan, but what’s so great about stepping up to the plate?

Playball!

After all, just because you stepped up to the plate doesn’t mean you’re gonna knock one out of the park.In fact, you’re more likely to strike out: so while we’re at it we might as well get rid of that cliche too.

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Here is one cliche I do like. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but laugh when I hear: “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

On the surface this expression is not what it appears to mean. In the 1700’s cannon balls and black powder were carried by boys who were referred to as “powder monkeys.

Perhaps I like this phrase because it is colorful and not so frequently used as the other overused cliches.

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Though I know there are literally thousands of cliches that we use daily, we can’t go around creating new ones each day. Every generation however, should at least cast out the old ones in place of the new.

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I would like to hear what you think.  Go to this blog and send your favorite and least favorite sayings.

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Next blog: May 15, 2012

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