The other day I was watching “The Pursuit of Happiness” and on the special features it explained that the producers including Will Smith chose an Italian man (Gabriele Muccino) to direct the movie. One of the things he said completely incarcerated my thoughts and forced me to write this.
“As Americans you guys don’t really understand and appreciate ‘The American Dream’. To fully appreciate and understand ‘The American Dream’ you have to be a foreigner.”
I wonder how true that statement is? I’ve had plenty of friends whose parents (and some themselves) have come to this country; made good and tell the story,
“I came here with nothing and now look at me.”
As children we are taught to go to school and get good grades you so can get into a good college. Once you have gotten into the good college you get a good education so you can get a good job. Once you have the good job you’re to buy the nice big home with the white picket fence, the nice car that you trade in for a nice sports car latter in life, and start the nice family so the cycle can repeat. That particular dream is ok for some, hey this is American and if that is what a person wants from life then they have the right to pursue. It took a very long time to figure out that particular dream was not for me. Some people’s American dream is to be the richest they can; richer than anyone ever and being born and raised in a democratic society with a capitalistic economic structure you already have an ingrained propensity for the wealth acquirement itch. I’m not saying wanting to be the richest man/woman there ever was makes you greedy capitalistic scum and a leach upon the world and its resources (although I know some reading this would say that). I’m not say that NOT wanting to be rich but seeking a life different from wealth acquisition maybe even seeking spiritual or personal education and elightenment makes you a hippy or a terrorist (although I so some reading this would say that).
What I am saying or asking rather is as Americans do we (myself included) understand and appreciate “The American Dream?” I think as Americans we fully understand “The American Dream” but I think we as Americans do not fully appreciate the access we have to that/those dream(s) verses what most people have in other countries. Keeping with the movie theme take into consideration movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” or “Jerusalema” both movies about men whom came from the unthinkable and achieved the unbelievable. One man in India one man in South Africa but both made good on what we in have claimed in America as our own. The idea of surpassing any and all odds to achieve our hearts desire whatever that might be. That is what we have claimed as “The American Dream.” I have some friends whose ideal would be to see America and all its hypocrisy come full circle. I know that they would like nothing more for all of its greedy corporations and double talking politicians expunged from the face of the Earth. I also have some friends whose ideal would be to make over the world and fill it with capitalism and democracy in every corners and all its crevices. I’d just like to write and have a few of my books and poetry published and make enough money to be what they call “comfortable.”
I’m thinking and I could be wrong is maybe Gabriele Muccino might have meant is that we as Americans do not appreciate and understand. The ease of access and the options of opportunities we have for success in and as Americans.
As a gay black man in America I could play my little violin (and I did for a while) and say how “the man” keeps me down and how “the government” wont even grant me first class citizenship in this country. Explicitly defining what my pursuit of happiness should be and there by limiting it. I think as you get older you start to realize that there will always be something. There will always be something that will be an obstacle in the way. I hate to use these words seeing how they have been overused in the past few years but it is sort of elitist (to me) to think that things should be handed to you just because you want them weather it be ten million dollars, a mansion, and a yacht. It seems (to me) a bit on the entitlement side to think that everyone should want to go out and protest the things (or anything for that matter) that you feel are unjust and unfair, to think that everyone should rally behind the banner of a cause that you (or anyone for that matter) have deemed personally righteous. In Africa certain people are denied jobs for the simple fact that they are from a particular tribe. In America I know that I have been turned down for jobs (and in one case actually given) simply because I am black, but the difference I think he meant is that we have recourse in America. We can take action and depending on how much and how hard we are willing to fight( not how much we willing to complain about how wrong it was) the outcome can be changed. In those places in Africa that’s simply just it, you can not have the job (or most other things that you want )and there is nothing you can do about it.
I think he might have meant that we do not appreciate the fact that as Americans we can do something against something that is negative in our eyes. We do not have to settle for any glass ceiling that is said to be given to use. I know some (reading this right now) scoff and say that you can only go so far and THEY will let you and you’ll NEVER get passed that. I say for THEM that is true. They will only go so far and will only ever achieve so much because they have accepted what someone else has transcribed as their limitations. I think what he meant is that even though America can seem to be all about money, greed, and corruptions is also about opportunity, and choice. You can choose to listen to what THEY tell you and only go as far as THEY will let you or you can take hold of the opportunities available to ALL BY LAW (something very few other countries offer) and at least try to achieve whatever it is that is your own personal American Dream.
©Christopher F. Brown 2009