My general worry is that the economic elite has irreconcilably split the rest of the country into a red and blue fight over mostly settled issues while they simultaneously siphon off most the growth in wealth of this country.
It's a common tradition for people in the United States lie to their children about Santa Claus. As the children grow older, most of them figure out the truth. But it's surprising how long some continue "to believe," even in the face of overwhelming evidence from their peers. It's also interesting to note, that when the parents are finally caught in this silly lie, their credibility is not questioned. In fact, there is often the development of a nostalgia for the time before the kids "found out" about Santa Claus.
I’m reminded of this when I listen to conservatives who yearn for better days when gender roles were unquestioned; the races lived separately but in harmony, and a booming economy lifted a growing middle class. There were few prominent depictions of disenfranchised minorities. Our views of society were mostly shaped by what we saw on TV (Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Dick Van Dyke, etc). Even though large parts of society were being left out (people of color, people who questioned gender roles, people who questioned sexual identity, people who questioned authority...) many of today’s conservatives look to the 50’s and 60’s as a romantic ideal.
My name is Ju Hong and I am an undocumented immigrant.
I was born in South Korea on October 23rd, 1989. In South Korea, my parents had a Japanese restaurant in downtown Seoul. Due to the economic recession, my parents hardly made any income from our business.
Shortly thereafter, my parents filed for bankruptcy. In the following year, my mother and my father decided to divorce. After that, I lived with my mother and my older sister, barely able to afford to buy food and a place to stay in South Korea.
In 2001, my mother made a bold decision – she left everything behind and decided to move to the United States to seek a better life for my sister and me. However, once we arrived in the United States, we faced a different set of challenges.
As a single parent, it was hard for my mother to raise my sister and me in a new country. She worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, sacrificing her time and energy to support my education and provide food on the table each day. She was and still is exhausted and overwhelmed after work.
Like my mom, my sister works full-time. Until recently she attended community college at the same time but because of financial difficulties, she had to drop out. My sister had the chance to attend more prestigious colleges and universities. Instead, she is 27 years old and working two shifts at a restaurant, mopping floors, and washing dishes, while her friends are experiencing college life.
I'm not really sure what the "American Dream" is. For some people, maybe it's to get "rich." But I don't care about being rich. One of my dreams is to do as much good, in my way, for as many people as I can before my time on this planet is up. Another one of my dreams is to live a happy, healthy life, and have a happy, healthy family.
Growing up, I was allowed to be open about religious issues although I was raised in a Jewish household with Jewish culture. My town didn’t have many Jews but had a number of churches. I was most certainly outnumbered growing up as I was usually the only Jew I knew in school besides my sister. It had a great deal of impact on me to be the different one.
For me the key takeaway is that, again, an otherwise decent person promotes an overtly and covertly racist and classist agenda with utter ignorance, while truly feeling victimized and baffled by allegations of same. I used to think that ignorance was willful. Now I'm not so sure. The concept of "aggrieved entitlement" has rarely been so gently expressed (if not particularly well-articulated) by a Tea Partier in the media - she truly believes that she not hurting anyone, that she has a right to an existence where she shouldn't have to be in any way affected by the needs, opinions, troubles or challenges faced by anyone outside her homogenous comfort zone, and can not hear criticism as anything but ad hominem attacks.
I think I'm living a version of the American dream.
I grew up poor on a small farm in Florida. My parents divorced when I was 15. At 18, I became a teenage mother (and a single one soon after) who did not graduate from high school. 12 years later, I have earned an MA, taught English for 3 years at a small public college in Georgia, and am now in my first semester at William & Mary law school.
I think I'm living my version of the American dream for several reasons: I was the first person in my family to attend college (my father had not even graduated high school); I grew up dirt poor but am slowly working my way to a stable life where I do not have to live paycheck-to-paycheck; as a teen mom, I was exceptionally lucky to have the opportunities to continue my education. My version of the American Dream included temporary dependence upon "entitlement" programs in my quest to achieve my goals. My version of the American dream means my children will have benefits in life I was not afforded, and I believe making life better, generation by generation, is the ultimate American dream.
(On another note, we shall not speak of the student loan debt.)
First of all, I have spent twenty-seven of the past thirty years living and working abroad -- Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and Oman. I was back in the States from October 1998 to August 2001. Consequently, I can't offer any real stories about the state of the nation today.
Nonetheless, let me offer some background. I'm fifty-nine years old and I grew up in a small town in central Florida. I suppose I'm a member of the last generation to have experience segregation: I can remember the separate toilets and separate water fountains, the lunch counters for whites only, the segregated schools. In my town we had two hospitals, one for whites and one for blacks. So it's natural for me to feel a lot of progress has been made over the years. The civil rights movement was prominent in the news when I was in elementary school and junior high school.
This video documents a small portion of the protests on Dec 28 2012 at the National Gun Show held at the Chantilly, VA Expo Center. The main protest was hosted by CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace and MoveOn. The single participant in the simultaneous counter-protest was an armed person calling himself the "San Francisco Liberal with a Gun."
The piece features a short interview with this individual and footage of activists (I recognized Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK) discussing the spotty enforcement of background checks at gun shows, referencing their work with some of the VA Tech massacre victim's families and noting incredulously that loaded guns aren't allowed in the gun show but that people want loaded guns in our elementary schools.
To me, America is home, the New World, from North (Canada) to South (Argentina/Chile/Galapagos) - we are all Americans. As the United States, well, it's my un/familiar homeland.
My ancestral lineage predates the American Colonial Era, and I'm sure all of my ancestors would consider my achievements a remarkable tale. As far as I know, my bloodline is African, Native American (Oglala Sioux and Choctaw) and Scottish/British. My multi-ethnicity aside, if were the days of Jim Crow, I'd be "colored" without question.
Regarding the mythical American Dream, no pleasant dream exists without some presence of a nightmare. The painfulness of hatred and bias remind me I am not living in a utopia - now or ever. Hatred and fear continue to keep us divided; conveniently, there is always another group to blame for the majority population's misery: the obese, the poor, the women, the il/legal immigrants, the Muslims, the (insert racial/ethnic group here), the gays - the list can go on. The pronouns "they" and "them" are quickly enunciated when people voice their dissatisfaction with, dehumanization of, and prejudice against groups of people they believe to be quite unlike (i.e. lower than) themselves.
When I was asked to write about my life in America, I got excited. I thought I had so much to say and talk about, surely, this was a piece of cake. Well, it wasn’t. Yet, here I am trying to share my story.
I want to start with a little background about me. I was born in Kolkata, India in a very conservative family. When I say conservative I mean old fashioned and idealistic kind of family. Even as a young girl education was given high importance. Yet, I had limitations I could not go any where. Whatever I did and learned had to be from home or school.
I think of it now as a gilded cage. I was given wings but could not fly. I could not experience life as I wanted to. I am not complaining. I never asked for the freedom, I was unaware of my feelings. My solution was to live in a world of my own, where everything was always hunky dory. I grew up in that bubble, where nothing supposedly touched me or mattered.