The American Dream
Its a phrase everyone knows and uses but what exactly does it mean ? For me it is, or should be, about more than just material wealth although that’s often part of it. I understand it as an aspiration to a society where everyone has equal opportunity and freedom to achieve their goals in life through hard work and determination regardless of race, religion or background. It offers the promise that where you end up can be determined by your own abilities and hard work and not any kind of class structure, privilege or inherited wealth.
The operative word in the phrase, though, is ‘dream’ because it is certainly not a reality for many Americans. The homeless and hungry on the streets are not living the same dream as those in gilded mansions enjoying obscene amounts of inherited wealth. Although some prosper in a free-for-all society many more fall by the wayside because the system demands that for every winner there are very many losers. Even if you subscribe to its crude ‘survival of the fittest’ ethic it is a fact that there has never been a level playing field from which to make that harsh selection. Wealth, background, race and gender have always had a profound, determining effect on opportunity and success in America.
Its worse than that though. The American dream cannot possibly function without good social mobility. Its credibility stands or falls on that. However the inequalities that have always existed in American society are not diminishing and in fact the gap between the richest and poorest has actually increased in recent years. The ‘dream’ is therefore not even working in its own limited terms because social mobility from generation to generation is now actually worse in the US than it was in the past and worse than in other ‘rich’ countries like France, Germany and the UK. Less of a ‘dream’ and more of an ‘illusion’
So if the ‘American Dream’ is flawed and failing is there a better way ? Substituting ‘social conscience’ for ‘selfishness’ would be a good start. The mark of a civilized society is not how much the strong or greedy can grab for themselves but how well it treats its weakest members. America is currently materially the richest country in the world, but most of that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny fraction of its people. It is rich enough, if its colossal wealth were shared in an equitable or even slightly rational way, to provide good homes and education and medical care for *all* of its citizens but it chooses not to do that at present.
For many the creation of a fairer society would be a much greater and more noble ‘American Dream’, but those who control the country will not easily allow that to happen. Wealth equals power and it is plain that the system operates for the benefit and perpetuation of that power. For the very few rather than for all. Whatever strengths the ‘American Dream’ vision of society may have had when the country was raw and developing, something seems to have gone badly wrong.
Bill Clinton said ..”We need a new spirit of community, a sense that we are all in this together, or the American Dream will continue to wither. Our destiny is bound up with the destiny of every other American.” Nothing has changed for the better since he said that a long time ago, in fact its got a lot worse. For a great many people, the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the dream has become a nightmare.
That’s how it will remain until politicians start to listen to the dreams of Americans.
Justice Society of America (1940)
LAS VEGAS — Federal authorities remain silent about their next plans to confront Cliven Bundy at his Bunkerville ranch.
Both sides are fighting over history, with federal courts denying Bundy’s claims of “ancestral rights” on the Virgin River valley. The I-Team dug into century-old records to examine Bundy’s claims.
At the Bunkerville camp next to Cliven Bundy’s ranch, there are constant reminders of history.
Revolutionary War flags, ancient Greek mottos and native American symbols, all mixing together to create a growing identity and narrative for protestors.
This land is unusually fertile and green for southern Nevada. Cliven Bundy grows melons there. They are said to be the best in the state.
His cattle, until recently, roamed freely on land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Before the roundup that sparked protests, confrontations and gunmen taking a bridge, Bundy explained his “ancestral rights” to the I-Team.
"I’ve lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvements," Bundy said.
Clark County property records show Cliven Bundy’s parents moved from Bundyville, Arizona and bought the 160 acre ranch in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt.
Water rights were transferred too, but only to the ranch, not the federally managed land surrounding it. Court records show Bundy family cattle didn’t start grazing on that land until 1954.
The Bureau of Land Management was created 1946, the same year Cliven was born.
"My rights are before the BLM even existed, but my rights are created by beneficial use. Beneficial use means we created the forage and the water from the time the very first pioneers come here," Bundy said.
Early census records show Cliven’s maternal grandmother, Christena Jensen, was born in Nevada in 1901. One genealogical researcher says records indicate Jensen helped settle Bunkerville some years later.
One word spreading through Bundy supporters and his armed guards is that what the federal government is doing to Bundy is exactly what they did to native Americans.
"They are literally treating western United States citizens, ranchers, rural folks like this- are the modern day Indians. We’re being driven off of our lands. We’re being forced into reservations known as cities," Justin Giles, an Oathkeeper from Alaska, said.
The local Paiute Indians were forced into reservations by federal troops in 1875. Two years prior, the tribe was promised the same land Cliven Bundy now grows his melons, and until recently, grazed his cattle.