The day after my father died in August in Washington, DC, I used to be taking out the trash in my dad and mom’ residence constructing after I was intercepted by a garrulous 60-year-old janitor from El Salvador – we’ll name him César – who within the very quick time he had identified my dad had reportedly clocked double-digit hours of dialog with him.
Listening to that my dad had succumbed to prostate most cancers after his medical doctors had pushed counterproductive however extremely profitable chemotherapy therapies on him, César provided his condolences and proceeded to inform me of his personal newest run-in with the US healthcare system. This transpired after he had a coronary heart assault on the street and bystanders referred to as the cops on him, assuming he was drunk.
He ultimately ended up on the hospital, the place he was introduced with an $80,000 invoice in change for the posh of not dying. Whereas hospitalised, he obtained a telephone name from his employer, who knowledgeable him that he was fired for having a coronary heart assault moderately than displaying as much as work.
Having resided within the US for 20 years as an undocumented employee, César would simply as quickly return to El Salvador, he stated, however his grownup son nonetheless clung to the notion of “el sueño americano”, or the American dream. He shrugged with a smile of resignation and launched into an lively recounting of one other misadventure within the so-called land of the free.
Twenty years, it so occurred, was the precise period of time I had to this point spent avoiding the US, my nation of start, just like the plague – for numerous causes, reminiscent of the need to not enter into everlasting debt within the occasion of a medical emergency. Avoidance had turn into harder when my dad and mom returned to the homeland from Barcelona in 2021 attributable to a coronavirus pandemic-induced lapse in judgment.
In fact, given my US passport, I had at all times been in a position to take my choose of different nations by which to go my time – together with El Salvador, an more and more common vacation spot for the privileged gringo “expat” crowd however not such a secure place for the common Salvadoran thanks largely to quite a few many years of US-backed right-wing state terror.
And but for a lot of Salvadorans and numerous different folks on the receiving finish of US-fuelled distress, the entire “American dream” has in some way retained its mystique despite the truth that the fact on the bottom within the US itself is so usually horrific.
For starters, a home panorama of poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, mass shootings and criminally costly healthcare, schooling and housing choices ought to hardly represent the stuff of goals.
And for undocumented immigrants, the panorama will be much more grotesque, what with pervasive discrimination, xenophobic vitriol, and US authorities efforts to take kids away from asylum-seeking dad and mom and in any other case make life hell for folk who play an outsize position in sustaining the US economic system.
In Could, eight folks had been killed within the Texas metropolis of Brownsville on the US-Mexico border when an SUV rammed into a bunch of primarily Venezuelan pedestrians close to a shelter serving homeless folks and refugees.
Shortly earlier than this incident, a bunch of Venezuelan and Colombian mates of mine – whom I had met in February in Panama once they exited the huge refugee graveyard generally known as the Darien Hole en path to the US – crossed into El Paso, one other Texas border city. They had been detained by US immigration personnel who, they informed me, communicated primarily through curse phrases.
The Venezuelans within the group had been ultimately flown to Arizona and dumped again into Mexico; the Colombians had been launched into provisional “freedom” within the US, which rapidly proved to be underwhelming.
A number of days into “freedom”, one of many Colombians messaged me from the El Paso sidewalk the place he was sleeping to inquire about returning to Colombia, the place, he stated, folks had been no less than not so petrified that they wouldn’t even communicate to these in want. The US was an not possible nation, my buddy assessed, “particularly should you’re poor”.
A lot for the “American dream”.
Why, then, does the dream persist within the world creativeness?
To make certain, fantasies will be mandatory distractions from every day struggling – and no much less in Colombia, the place US-backed right-wing state terror on behalf of world capitalism killed 1000’s upon 1000’s of peasant farmers and different Colombians. In such conditions, the dream of bodily and financial security could be a buoy, even when it occurs to be related to the nation liable for annihilating everybody’s goals.
There are different causes American dream mythology is so resilient. There may be the worldwide attain of US “tradition”, ie, quick meals, films and common soulless consumerism that’s nonetheless understandably interesting to the have-nots of the world.
The American dream can be well-suited to the age of social media, which anyway is all about promoting false happiness. Regardless of their categorically dismal circumstances within the US, my Colombian mates promptly set about crafting upbeat TikTok productions – set to reggaeton music – to publicise an imagined model of their new lives to mates again residence. In a single video, one in all my mates sauntered down the sidewalk blissfully swinging buying baggage.
Again in 2008, then-US president George W Bush remarked: “Free market capitalism is excess of financial concept. It’s the engine of social mobility, the freeway to the American Dream.” To the linguistically challenged ex-president’s credit score, this was all no less than grammatically appropriate.
However the fact of the matter is that US-directed free market capitalism – and its imposition, usually at gunpoint, on different international locations – is what drives a lot migration within the first place.
Neglect the “freeway to the American Dream”. The one place this freeway goes is a nightmare.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.