An essay for my Sophomore American Literature Class.
| The American Dream is a concept that has affected the lives of millions. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, immigrants flooded to America in hopes of a better life, whether that meant political asylum, religious asylum, fertile land, job opportunities, or just a safer place to raise a family. Since then, that ideal image of America has been warped; twisted and turned into oblivion. Today, immigrants are still flooding to America seeking jobs and sanctuary. However, many of these immigrants are crossing borders illegally, and many immigrants are returning to their homeland after not finding what they were looking for. The American Dream is not the same as it used to be. It is now an egotistical view of what America is, in its entire splendor, when in reality America has changed for the worse.
Rewind to August 17th, 1717. Eight people-a husband, wife, and six of their eight children-leave their home in the town in Bradninch in Devonshire, England. They travel to Bristol, and from there, set sail to America. One of the children, Samuel Boone, was only six years old when his family made this adventurous journey to a new world. Nine generations later, his great-granddaughter is sitting at her desk, agonizingly typing a paper for her Sophomore Honours American Literature class. Although Samuel’s father George Boone probably moved to America because of the strong need for adventure that in future generations motivated his grandson Daniel Boone and his brothers, he also moved because he was frustrated with his condition as a Quaker in England. He wanted a better life for his children, and promises of exactly that are what fueled his adventurous expedition to the New World. Although this is one of the more “picturesque” visions of the American dream, the more modern American dream is far from this.
Although many stories of immigration from yesteryear are far from pleasant, most are fueled by the determination for individuals to live the American Dream. However, with our population growing at an unprecedented rate, it is becoming more and more difficult to legally live in this country. Justin, from Los Angeles, California, migrated from Turkey to the United States illegally when he was nine years old. Today, he is nineteen years old, a recent high school graduate, and because he is not a legitimate U.S. citizen, he cannot get a job or go to college. Because of his Turkish citizenship, he must attend mandatory military service when he turns 20. If he refuses, he will be imprisoned, and his military service will be doubled to three years. However, if he leaves America now, he will never be able to come back for an education and will have to learn a new language and begin a new education in a “new” country. Justin himself wrote that he wished he had “never got a taste of the American dream.” Stories similar to this are an unfortunate reality that is plaguing our societies. People like Justin are proof that today, the American dream is just a dream, out of reach and too big to grasp.
From the eighteenth to the twentieth century, the American Dream was to have freedom, riches, and happiness. The icon that symbolized their dream turning into reality was the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbour. Its inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send those, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” was a saying that inspired millions of people to lead a better life. Unfortunately, today’s message to people seeking sanctuary in this country is not as heartwarming as the one that is written on our Lady Liberty. Today’s message to immigrants searching for a better life looks more like “This is our country, unless you’re willing to sacrifice your time, money, and life to us, you aren’t welcome.” Needless to say, the reality of the American dream has grown, mutated, and morphed into something that is almost completely unattainable.
For years, America has been one of the leading countries in the world, as one of the biggest economic powers. Millions of people from countries all around the globe aspire to one day live in the United States. In the past few decades, however, this aspiration has changed drastically. Our country is so oil-hungry, not to mention publicity-hungry, that we started a war that has killed an estimated 93,108 – 101,608 people-both soldiers and civilians-to date. Our economy is in turmoil, and our former president was one of the least-appreciated in United States history. If people from other countries aren’t turned away from America by this, then the number of people that are attracted to America’s splendor has vastly diminished. What America once proudly displayed as a better life-freedom for all, is now shattered, torn America, with a dream that is unattainable.
"American Dream -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dream>.
Ellis Island - FREE Port of New York Passenger Records Search. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <http://www.ellisisland.org/genealogy/ellis_island_history.asp>.
Iraq Body Count. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <http://www.iraqbodycount.org/>.
My Immigration Story - Home. Web. 19 Sept. 2009. <http://www.myimmigrationstory.com/>.
Slaughter, Phillip. Notes On Culpeper County, Virginia. Culpeper, VA: Raleigh Travers Green, 1900. Print.
Spraker, Ella Hazel Atterbury. Boone family a genealogical history of the descendants of George and Mary Boone who came to America in 1717; containing many unpublished bits of early Kentucky history. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1974. Print.
"Statue of Liberty - The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation." Welcome to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. <http://www.statueofliberty.org/default_sol.htm>.