We Must Continue to Fight for the American Dream

We're promised something about America as children. This is the land of opportunity, where anyone can make it if they work hard and follow the rules. We grow up believing that those who fail did so by their own failures as individuals. The successful, we're told, worked hard and overcame adversity through a show of personal strength and determination. They wrote the story of their accomplishments through individual fortitude and self-improvement.

As we get older, the cracks in that promise become more evident. We see people left behind by a healthcare system that isn't built to keep them healthy, or by an education system that isn't meant to benefit the poor. Yet we continue to believe in the Dream, for our own sake and for the sake of those around us who work so hard against the odds to realize that dream for themselves and their family. We suppress our cynicism because we want to believe that everyone is writing their own story and that theirs will be a story of individual accomplishments, like our own.

I don't pride myself in my cynicism, but I appreciate the amount of skepticism it offers me in the face of that promise. The American Dream was not always meant for everyone, but the better we understand its flaws, the more we can do to make to accessible to all. Often that involves facing hard truths and making long-term investments in our children and their children. If we can't face those truths, nothing will ever change.

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For those who are struggling to understand what happened yesterday, let me explain.

This country's history is written by people who believe God himself granted them, and only them, the unalienable right to that American Dream. The constitution ensured this privilege would only be accessible to a select group of people. Every bit of progress this country has made has been toward expanding access to that dream to millions of people who were previously denied it.

We fought a war against ourselves and engineered social uprisings to pass laws, amendments, and change hearts for the cause of making the American Dream an inalienable right for all Americans.
Yet the privileged raged on. Against every opportunity granted to someone who did not look like them, they found a way to secure their own success.

The slaves went free and bought land and property. So new laws threw them in jail and labeled them druggies, criminals, and thugs. Women fought for the right to vote and work alongside men. So new laws governed their bodies and protected inequality in their pay. Immigrants poured into the land of opportunity and brought their skills and education. So new laws targeted them for their beliefs or their country of origin and labeled them an invading threat.

All of them, a threat. To what?

To the guaranteed Dream that comes with being a straight, white, Christian, male. The Dream of financial inheritance built on the backs of slaves. Businesses immune to legal challenge and fair taxation. A guaranteed paycheck if you could smile and give a firm handshake. A town filled with people who look like you, act like you, talk like you, think like you - "normal" people. White people.

For them, the Dream was different. It wasn't based on hard work. Sure, you could put in the effort and become wealthy and buy a second home in the hills. But for most, success was guaranteed by virtue of who your parents were and by the color of your skin. Why put in the extra effort toward the Dream when you know you'll find a job in a town of familiar faces? You're a straight white man. You don't need self-improvement.

You're already the best there is.

What happened yesterday is the culmination of two centuries of white men realizing that they can no longer shun hard work and self-improvement and be guaranteed access to the Dream. The encroachment by minorities, women, and a changing world economy was too great to stave off by privilege alone. The face of the world has changed so much that if a woman works hard and shows individual fortitude, she can now be more successful than a man.

Donald Trump's campaign slogan should have been "If you can't join em, beat em."

The cult of white male privilege has spoken and it has said loud and clear: we will not change. We will not improve. We will not adapt, or evolve, or adjust. We will not work alongside you, nor will we share our rights and our successes.

The American Dream is ours and ours alone, and when a changing world threatens the Dream, we'll label Change itself as the enemy.

This is the message the masses of uneducated white males have sent to the world. This is what they will tell their daughters, neighbors, and friends. You're either like me, or you're against me. To them, the Dream is a zero sum game, and this is how they stay out of the red.

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I believe this country will endure. My generation stayed awake through enough history classes to know that social and economic progress is a solution worth fighting for. We will work to expand the Dream and we will succeed in providing access to those who work hard and follow the rules, regardless of their race or gender.

But first, we must acknowledge who we are and how we have contributed to the entrenchment of privilege and racial supremacy. We are all imperfect, but in those imperfections lies the potential for improvement. If self-improvement is the key to the Dream, then let us strive to be our best for both ourselves and the people around us.

America is and always will be the land of opportunity. For everyone. We should not lose sight of that ideal. We should not give up on this country or its people. I am the descendant of immigrants. I am the descendant of change. Millions before us have fought to make the Dream a reality for themselves and for people who they knew they would never meet.

Do not lose sight of the American Dream. Do not forget that you live in the land of opportunity. Continue to fight. Fight for the Dream.