Rethinking the American Dream

In the spirit of this season of giving, here’s something else we might want to consider giving up: The American Dream. Despite the best of intentions it has become a perversion and parody of its former self, and though the Dream is still alive it is slowly turning into a nightmare. The American Dream was once a great one. Perhaps a new American Dream could be even better. Vanity Fair concurs…

'Closing a Summer Cottage, Quogue, New York,' a 1957 Norman Rockwell art-directed Colorama by Ralph Amdursky and Charles Baker

Along with millions of jobs and 401(k)s, the concept of a shared national ideal is said to be dying. But is the American Dream really endangered, or has it simply been misplaced? Exploring the way our aspirations have changed—the rugged individualism of the Wild West, the social compact of F.D.R., the sitcom fantasy of 50s suburbia—the author shows how the American Dream came to mean fame and fortune, instead of the promise that shaped a nation.

by DAVID KAMP | April 2009

The year was 1930, a down one like this one. But for Moss Hart, it was the time for his particularly American moment of triumph. He had grown up poor in the outer boroughs of New York City—“the grim smell of actual want always at the end of my nose,” he said—and he’d vowed that if he ever made it big he would never again ride the rattling trains of the city’s dingy subway system. Now he was 25, and his first play, Once in a Lifetime, had just opened to raves on Broadway. And so, with three newspapers under his arm and a wee-hours celebration of a successful opening night behind him, he hailed a cab and took a long, leisurely sunrise ride back to the apartment in Brooklyn where he still lived with his parents and brother.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into one of the several drab tenement neighborhoods that preceded his own, Hart later recalled, “I stared through the taxi window at a pinch-faced 10-year-old hurrying down the steps on some morning errand before school, and I thought of myself hurrying down the street on so many gray mornings out of a doorway and a house much the same as this one.… It was possible in this wonderful city for that nameless little boy—for any of its millions—to have a decent chance to scale the walls and achieve what they wished. Wealth, rank, or an imposing name counted for nothing. The only credential the city asked was the boldness to dream.”

continue reading at vanityfair.com

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This entry was posted in Culture, History, Livability, Placemaking, Shout Outs, Sustainability, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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