The Myth Of The American Dream Essay

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The Myth Of The American Dream Essay, Research Paper Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality Paper #1 To many people the phrase American culture represents a set of positive values and beliefs that would be held by any benevolent citizen. In an ideal society this would indeed be the case, however the phrase actually represents a set of values and beliefs that are imposed, reinforced, and become dominant. These beliefs are often presented as being valid when they are actually based on the distortion and manipulation of the truth. Dominant American culture is imposed by various means such as our families, schools, government, and possibly most often by the mass media. Although it is important to realize that cultural values and beliefs are not necessarily positive, it must be noted

that they are not necessarily negative either. To discover if a dominant cultural belief is in fact sound, one must examine it critically. To do this is to look at where the belief originated, why it has been reinforced, and who is benefiting from its continuance. In the readings by Rubin, and Ore several dominant cultural values are investigated and an upsetting connection is found. On the foundation of actual experiences, the authors show how a number of dominant beliefs are presented as truth but in reality serve to promote the welfare of those in power and in control of resources. When identifying dominant cultural beliefs, perhaps the first one that comes to mind is the idea of the American dream. To many the American dream is in fact the essence of America. The idea that

anyone can be anything they put their mind to is the basis for America being known as the land of opportunity. Upon inspection however, its apparent that America is far from an Egalitarian society where all have equal access to power and natural resources. In a society where there was equal access to resources one would expect to see an equal distribution of wealth. America however has the most unequal distribution of wealth of any industrialized nation. Here the top 1 percent of households controls the same percentage of the nation’s income as the bottom 90 percent of households (Ore: 81). If in truth America represents a society that obviously restricts opportunity to a small number of people, why has the idea of the American dream been reinforced for so long? To answer this

question, it is important to first identify where most of this reinforcement takes place. In this case, the media is largely responsible for supporting the myth of equal opportunity in America. The support comes in the form of distorted media coverage of the poor and inaccurate portrayals of the wealthy. One of the ways the media distorts the facts about distribution of resources is by deceiving the public into thinking that it is common to be wealthy. Even though they make up an incredibly small percentage of the population, the affairs of the wealthy are most often the focus of the media. By presenting these issues as the most common, the American public is led to believe that the “concerns of the wealthy are the concerns of us all”(Ore: 75). Another way in which false

values been supported by the media is evident in its terribly inaccurate presentation of poverty in this country. On the rare occasion that the poor are the focus of the media, they are portrayed as a small percentage of the population that is responsible for creating financial problems for the middle class. Rather than examine the tremendous barriers that serve to keep the poor from attaining financial success, we are trained to see them as a burden on those who have already achieved financial success. This is where the myth of the American dream once again comes into play. If we are in a country where all have equal opportunity, then the poor are considered to be wholly responsible for their situation. Problems such as crime, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of education, and