THOLOS OF ATHENA

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

SAM SHEPARD ON THE AMERICAN DREAM

Nobody has actually ever succinctly defined "the myth of the American Dream." What is the American Dream? Is it what Thomas Jefferson proposed? Was that the American Dream? Was it what George Washington proposed? Was it what Lincoln proposed? Was it what Martin Luther King proposed? I don't know what the American Dream is. I do know that it doesn't work. Not only doesn't it work, the myth of the American Dream has created extraordinary havoc, and it's going to be our demise. I mean if you want to--and I'm not an historian--but it's very interesting to trace back this European imperialism, this notion that not only were we given this land by God, somehow, but that we're also entitled to do whatever we wanted to with it, regardless of the consequences, and reap all of the fortunes out of the land, much to the detriment of everybody "below" this rampant, puritanical class of European colonialism. If you read in the journals of Lewis and Clark, it's just amazing how these guys approached the Plains Indians, particularly the Sioux, who were not very welcoming to them, as opposed to some of the other tribes to the North who got along with them better. But the Sioux couldn't care less about these jokers. They'd mess with them, they'd fool with them, they shot arrows at 'em, and Lewis and Clark hated the idea of going back through Lakota country because they knew they'd get the shit kicked out of them by these "crazy" people who they considered many notches below the European standard. Now if that's the American Dream, then we were in trouble from the get go; if that's the way the myth of the American Dream was established, we were in deep shit. Granted, Lewis and Clark and these other guys were somewhat heroic, they were vigorous, they had all this vitality and they had all of this adventure of going into strange territory and all of that stuff, but behind the whole thing is land-hungry Europeans wanting to dominate. That's behind the whole deal. So, again, there are so many definitions of the myth of the American Dream. I mean, now you could actually say the American Dream is the computer. It's presented like that: the computer is the American Dream, the computer is the Answer. The Internet is the Answer. OK? Where does that leave you? I think we've always fallen victim to advertising from the get go. From advertising campaigns. The move westward was promoted by advertising. You know, "Come West!" "Free land!" "Manifest Destiny." So we've always been seduced by advertising, and now we're even more seduced by the computer and the Internet. We've fallen into that thing, you know. So the American Dream is always this fantasy that's promoted through advertising. We always prefer the fantasy over the reality.

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