This I Believe

Matthew - Ankeny, Iowa
Entered on January 15, 2007

The question of whether America is an individualistic nation is almost a tautology, for America is known for its “rugged, individualistic spirit.” But as most ideals that we follow, the duality simultaneously emerges as one considers the benefits that arise from individualism, against its lesser known perils. To ignore this duality says nothing of its existence, which manifests itself in the negative traits and statuses of depression, anxiety, fear, and scarcity, as well as the so-called positive effects that are almost universally praised upon one hand as the traits that drive American success: hard work, very high standards of beauty, conspicuous consumption, long hours, and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps to self-actualization.

As it was in American history that, subsequent to the Wagner Act, the mobilization of unions were forever bound and gagged, so to has it been with the community life of the common men and women of this country. Somewhere along the line, as did the interpersonal contact, ideals such as these were abandoned without even a second thought. Individualism triumphed over community as the “ideal” way of life, with changing the world for the better, justice, fairness, and peace being consigned to the exclusive realm of elementary education.

Being that I am one of the so-called “victors” in the American race: young, idealistic, hard-working, white, fit, wealthy, and above-average intellect–I feel as if I can shed some light as to where this rat race leads, albeit it is a subjective viewpoint. The so-called paradigm of Americanism is a dangerously skewed view of the world that is focused upon specific, and limited, gains for the individual, while wholly neglecting the inherent evils asserted by such. We were told that such was what made America unique, and special.

I hold it now as self-evident through the senses that for every aspect of so-called “American success,” in the “American way,” there is an equally important counterpoint to be made for each of the assertions of the good of the values in question. With hard work comes stress, with success comes elitism, insatiability, and the fear of losing that which is precariously held and kept. With materialism comes superficiality, and with the deification of the dollar comes the abject defecation and objectification of human labor as a means to an end not even attempting to veil itself within something, anything, more desirable. We have been left with a monistic theory of value (that of monetary gain), as the soul and life of a country that we used to think held the key for open-ended prosperity, with no malevolent consequences on any foreseeable horizon. I leave it to you to decide whether or not, as I have concluded, the “American Dream” is nothing more than a mirage.