Apr 10, 2006

The Death of the American Dream

As many of you know, I'm the student editor of the North Hennepin Community College newspaper, The North Star. Coming up on our final issue, I was submitted an excellent article from a guy not even on my staff. It was an article that seems to have been passed around on campus between the newspaper and the art magazine we also put out, and eventually it wound up in my hands. After some careful editting, it turns out this is probably the best article I've ever printed here.

Note- technically, I guess I "own" this article now...but I'm always willing to remove it from online if the author or other people have a problem with it. I WILL NOT remove it because you disagree with what it says.

Also, he sums up perfectly one of the reasons I like U2 above many other bands and performers...or genres.


The Death of the American Dream

I used to think that the "American Dream" meant owning a house, working a steady job, being married with 2.5 kids, and owning a dog. Unfortunately, I was na├»ve in the ways the world works; how time can level empires, and how "change" and "social progress" in a civilization often times means that dreams are destroyed and reality is forever altered. Somehow, I had forgotten that racism was alive and well in America, and that the ‘American Dream" that I believed everyone should strive for, was dead and gone.

I am twenty-six years old, a single parent trying to raise a daughter and hold down a job while attending school in what seems a vain hope that education will lead to a better life. In twenty-six years I have witnessed my friends fall victim to drugs and crime; some are in prison, others are buried. I have worked in almost all of the homeless shelters in Minneapolis, served in my country’s elite military forces, and watched as everything I was raised to believe in was systematically destroyed in the name of "social progress."

The goal of the civil rights movement was the equality of the races, which we achieved with a modicum of success. Yet, somewhere along the way, the goal shifted from equality to appeasement, seemingly pandering to minority groups for political power, pitting one group’s interests against the others. Affirmative action laws clearly show this fundamental truth. How does society say that equality means hold some back for someone else’s benefit? If I were an employer, how could I say that I can’t hire the perfect candidate for a position that I am trying to fill simply because the candidate in question does not belong to the right minority group? How is this being equal?

So many times people seem to turn every discussion, every issue at hand into an accusation of racially motivated bias. Why is it that we are still talking about racism in the 21st century? Why do we make clear demarcations for race, such as Black History month? Was the civil rights movement only for blacks in this country? Does poverty affect only non-whites? Or it this simply a way to keep the races attacking each other, rather than face the real problem:—money; that those who have it try to keep everyone else down. It’s not about black or white anymore, it’s about green.

So I submit that we are all seduced into being racist. I am proud of my culture, my religion and my beliefs, just as others should be, but that doesn’t mean I need to denigrate others. But I do look down on everyone, white, black, and everything else, who asks for a handout instead of a hand up. But I also don’t agree with just about everything our current American society teaches us, particularly the cultural epidemic affecting our children; the communication of negative values through our media which then gets associated with race, further dividing us.
Consider music. If you listen to the hip-hop/rap genre of music today, you will be given images of men using women as playthings, frequent drug deals and drug usage, shootings and beatings over such trivial things as gang colors and city blocks, money earned through vice and criminal enterprises, and fighting the so-called "racist" cops and an uncaring society targeting minorities. The majority of performers in this particular genre are non-white, leading people to condemn this "black" music; yet the most controversial performer in this genre is white. Eminem sings about killing his ex and stealing his daughter away, committing violent crimes for fun, frequent and rampant drug usage, and how everybody in the world owes him because he has had a poor life. Interspersed between this garbage are some insights into the stresses of being a star and the required drug usage in order to cope with those stresses. (Give me a break.)

The message of female performers like Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilera is just as harmful to our children, with images of casual sex, rampant drug use and the belief that everyone should treat you like a princess because you deserve it.

Watching the news, going for a walk in your nearest mall, or going back to your high school to pick up your transcripts will show you what the youth of today look like. With the negative values contained in their music, is it any wonder that our children are causing crime, doing drugs and generally apathetic towards others?

But the real message that our society accepts is that money gives you the right to do whatever you want against someone else, and that people owe you for all your troubles in life. But if money is the issue, then why do we resort to the old black and white controversy? Why do we sit and listen to the music that is our there today, then yell at teachers when our sons and daughters act like criminals and tramps? What do you expect when the song that wins the Academy Award is entitled, "It’s Hard to be a Pimp"?

We all should feel no shame in looking down on someone whose hero is a gun-toting, crack-dealing, women-belittling criminal who parades around with more money than we will ever make at an honest job. Race has nothing to do with it.

So now I feel like I stand at a crossroads. Do I raise my daughter as I was raised? Do I tell her to be proud of her culture, her society and her capabilities? Do I tell her that she should hold herself to a moral code of conduct? Do I teach her to have pride in the fact that she is an American, and that she should stand up for her morals and beliefs? Do I tell her that she shouldn’t seek a handout from the government or other cultures or blame others for her own actions? Or should I simply watch my dreams for her fade as she becomes another numb cog in the wheel that keeps this society going because, as it stands, now all these things that I was taught by my parents fly in the face of what society teaches our children today. We give lip service to those values yet behave as if anything goes if the price is right. The problem is that people are unknowingly conned into seeing these divides in racial terms and then equally conned into calling each other "racists" when someone points out these racial divides. So it really isn’t about black and white; it’s about green.


The Charlebois said...

Powerful thoughts

Paul said...

Pop Culture cannot destroy us all; that's why it's pop culture. Hopefully we will evade it and it will depart from us soon.