The viewpoint on the United States from a working-class

The Decline of The American DreamIs the American Dream alive by its original definition? As an international student with ambitions to stay in this country, I found myself as a chaser of the American Dream, but is it a grasp in the dark when I’m aware of the difficulties achieving a Green Card. The original definition of the national ethos coined by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America states, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”(pg. 404). Adams continues to say that the dream applies to everyone regardless their birth or position. That is the major question I have asked myself over the course of this semester, and the question rose from different impressions. Everything from the coarse readings who presented a segregated past in the United States, American friends who holds the dream as one of the fundamental pillar of this country, to the interview with my father. In my interview, I identified Bruce Springsteens’ album Darkness On The Edge of Town as the object of popular culture. The album was released in 1978 and on several occasions Springsteen addresses his viewpoint on the United States from a working-class perspective, which can be placed in a bigger perspective of the American Dream. The American Dream and Springsteen’s album is tied together with my father and the goal will be to explain and break down the concept of the american dream, while at the same time explaining repectives connection to the dream. Occasionally during my father’s childhood his family got visited by relatives from the United States. The father in the family was a successful business owner and often talked about the opportunities that existed in the U.S and that planted the idea of the American Dream in my father’s head. My father grew up in a lower middle-class family who couldn’t provide with much, more than food and a place to live for him and his siblings. Therefore, the idea of succeeding in America and be able to provide for his future children in a more extensive manner, compared to his own parents made the American Dream compelling. However, he graduated high school with good standing grades and his parents expected him to continue his education at a university in Sweden, but my father had a different idea in mind. Without the knowledge of his parents he had been mail corresponding with the relatives in the United States and explained his dream to start his own firm and a new life. The relatives agreed to set him up with food, shelter, and a job under the table when he couldn’t legally work in the country without a employment VISA. In 1978, my father arrived in San Francisco, California and the relatives welcomed him with open hands. My father would come especially close to the father of the family called Ben. Ben originally came from Texas and grew up in similar circumstances as my father, but had moved to San Francisco in the early 60’s where he had become a successful entrepreneur. The wealth and house that the family was astonishing to my father who never seen anything comparable in Sweden, and it made him dream even more of the American eam. Over the course of two years he worked as a carpenter as he simultaneously tried to get clearance from the United States government to work in the country legally. To get a permit to work had become more difficult in later years when in 1965 the government introduced the Hart-Cellar Act who limited the immigration radically. Essentially, the act stated that a immigrant need to have either family ties or a special skill in order to get a permit to work. Even if my father was related to Ben’s family, the connection between both families was too far apart, and it was difficult to argue for my father possessing a special skill when he hadn’t accomplished a university degree. Ben offered my father to pay for his university degree so they could try again after he graduated, but at the time my father didn’t feel motivated enough to continue his education. In 1980 after two years of effort to get clearance to work my father gave up and moved home to Sweden. However, during my father’s time in San Francisco he attended his first Bruce Springsteen concert and explained that the experience gave him a new perspective on both his music and Springsteen as an person. The concert went on for approximately three hours and Springsteen played his entire Darkness On the Edge of Town album with a total performance of 26 songs. My father described the concert as an 3 hour car-ride in 200 km/h. Continuing to say that the long, energetic, and passionate performance made Springsteen’s message more credible when he made the appearance of an hard-working man who wanted to deserve his salary. From the performance my father explains that The Promised Land and Adam Raised a Cain made him relate to Springsteen on a personal level. The Promised Land goes, “I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm” along with the entire song convey how Springsteen is experiences many obstacles in his life that is preventing him to succeed. My father related to that part especially when he saw himself in a similar position. When himself had left Sweden with a no clear idea of what he was getting into, and well in the United States he were prevented to succeed because he couldn’t get a permit to work from the government. On the other hand, in the song Adam Raised a Cain, Springsteen sings about his relationship with his father and how he feel alienated from the rest of the children, but also how society has failed his father. When my father explained for his parents that he was going through with his plan to move to the United States his father considered it as a betrayal against the family, especially he as the oldest sibling was expected to contribute to the welfare of the family. Also, he had seen how his father had been working hard during the course of his childhood in the local mill, but even if he worked long hours day-in and day-out the salary would just let the family get by every month. Essentially, to see Springsteen perform these songs live made the words more authentic for my father. My father’s essential reason for moving to the United States was an attempt to accomplish or reach the American Dream. When my father first arrived in the United States his idea of the American Dream was something that anyone and everyone could achieve as long as someone consistently worked hard, then would that hard work pay off. That definition of the American Dream would slightly change with the help of Springsteen’s music. My father related to Springsteen’s songs when they expressed a from of frustration that my father felt over the dream not seeming to be feasible. This frustration was also against the American’s who prided themselves with living in a country where anyone no matter background can come and succeed if someone wants it bad enough. Even this does Springsteen point out that the American Dream seem more easily reached by certain members of the society. Springsteen’s album takes a critical standpoint towards the social climate in the 1970’s United States. The songs on Darkness On the Edge of Town leaves the listeners with an idea of an artist that believes that his country has moved away from its fundamental values and left behind large parts of the population. He sings in The Promised Land, “I’ve done my best to live the right way. I get up every morning and go to work each day. But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold. Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode. Explode and tear this whole town apart. Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart. Find somebody itching for something to start.” The middle-class workers are trying his or her best to be model citizens. Constant working takes its toll as well as the feeling of being oppressed leads in the end to anger. Throughout the album, Springsteen’s lyrics are focusing on the white males from the middle and working class of society and their problems and everyday life, whereas woman comes in the background. The man is the breadwinner which make the 1970s social system to seem predominantly patriarchal. Also, aiming attention to the increasing gap between the working and upper class by singing in the song Badlands, “Poor man wanna be rich. Rich man wanna be king. And a king ain’t satisfied. Till he rules everything.” Essentially claiming that humans never get satisfied, but the statement also interprets as how the different classes in society are living well at the expense of others, which makes the socio-historical perspective very prominent.Springsteen paints a picture of the climate in the 1970s as being cold and harsh. In an interview with the newspaper, The Guardian Springsteen states, “I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American Dream”(par.3). While listening to the entire Darkness On the Edge of Town album, it sounds like Springsteen consider the Promised Land and the American Dream as a fairytale from the past, while American reality seems filled with hardship. Reality doesn’t provide a safety net to catch you, and no one hears the call for help. The mere thought of standing together striving towards a better world is gone, and each and everyone has to make it on their own. Springsteen states in The Promised Land, “I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm.” Meaning that whether you are going to make it or not is depending on your determination and confidence in your capabilities. According to Springsteen, the problem is the lack of employment which in turn leads to people ending up either committing criminal activity or taking drugs. The desperation and despair increases and the pride and self-esteem abandons them, at the same time as the feeling of being lonely starts to haunt them. He states in The Promised Land, “Find somebody itching for something to start” which interprets as the working class males are starting to become more filled with anger because of their inability to provide for their family. Therefore, many turn their trust to god to help them find a job. Meanwhile, others considered that it’s upon themselves to get a jobMany of the best songs by Bruce Springsteen is about those who dream about the American Dream – those who fights against difficult odds; sometimes for love, sometime just to survive. Born To Run is a call for escape to the unknown promised land. Racing In the Streets is about those who keep their head high and refuses to die, bit by bit. In addition, there are also they who doesn’t have belief in the future as in The River. In five minutes Springsteen depicts an entire lifetime. The storyteller makes his teenage love pregnant and they get married unceremonious in the courthouse. He ends up as construction worker, but has a hard time getting employed when the economy of the country turns. Love turns to apathy, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true?” ask Springsteen himself in the last verse. The same question is does the political scientist Robert Putnam in his book Our Kids – The American Dream in Crisis. By interviews and statistics shows Putnam how children’s future standard of living in today’s United States is heavily determined by who their parents are, which is the opposite of what the dream promises. Putnam states, “Poor kids, through no fault of their own, are less prepared by their families, their schools, and their communities to develop their God-given talents as fully as rich kids”(230). Many children grow up in fallen areas, attends school that doesn’t meet an adequate standard, surrounded by violence and drugs, often have a father in prison, and lack support and role models. Their parents have often had children early and unwanted, lacking education, and therefore is relegated to bad jobs and housing – similar to the main characters in The River. The result becomes young adults without an education, belief in the future or confidence whether to democracy or fellow citizens. The conclusion becomes that the American Dream does not apply to many children, and also that the differences between the social classes has increased dramatically the past decades. Noam Chomsky are arguing that one reason behind the decline or death of the American Dream is due to a deliberate effort buy the government and large corporations in the United States. Chomsky states in his documentary Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, “This is the result of over thirty years of a shift in social and economic policy. If you check you find that over the course of these years the government policy has been modified completely against the will of the population to provide enormous benefits to the very rich”(2). Chomsky means that the democratic thought of putting power into the hands of the general population was never particularly popular among the country’s privileged groups. As a consequence, the power in the country is distributed between a small amount of people in comparison the the entire population. After my interviewing my father, interpreting the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, reading different articles of the generational view on the American Dream from the past and today, I came to the conclusion that the American Dream exclude a certain part of America and the majority of the world. Today the chance for me to reach the American Dream is minimalistic. Yet, the same goes for teenager in poorer parts of america who just doesn’t live under right conditions to reach their full potential. As a result, a lot of potential and talent is going to waste in the United States. Springsteen gives his view on the matter on his album Darkness On The Edge of Town by acting as the mouthpiece for the working-class. They want to believe that the American Dream is still achievable for anyone, even if everything is points at the opposite. The same goes for my father; he came to America with strong belief in the American Dream, but with the help of Springsteen he realized that the dream didn’t include him along with many others.