Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Dream Today: What is It?

The American Dream today cannot be defined as any one ideal or image. Considering the vastly different individuals that comprise the United States, what one citizen's view of the American Dream is will differ from another's. However, there are some generalities that are common for most Americans in their vision of the Dream:
  • Economic Security: Most Americans consider economic security a major component of the American Dream. The ideal would be for families and citizens to have no need for financial concern - money should not be an issue.
  • Cultural: Since there are numerous cultural groups within the U.S., the culture aspect of the American Dream cannot be biased towards any one way of living. Rather, the Dream propagates the idea that people are free to celebrate their own culture without bias or prejudice directed towards them. Furthermore, the Dream suggests that the various cultures within America coexist peacefully and as part of an overall tight-knit community.
  • Political: The political side of the Dream is similar to the cultural component in that Americans should be free to decide their own political / social views without having their opinions attacked or infringed on by others.
I do not believe that the components of the American Dream are exclusive to each other since there is nothing in any one aspect of the Dream that contradicts another. However, I do believe the ideal suggested by the Dream to be realistically impossible to attain. This is because there is no feasible way for everyone to be wealthy and individualistic without coming into conflict with others. Overall, although the future may see a reality closer to the ideal of the Dream, I do not see a way for every citizen to realize the components of the American Dream currently.

What are your thoughts on the American Dream?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lessons from Watts

According to my research, the Watts Riots were caused by a build-up of underlying racial tension between African Americans and the white Anglos. High unemployment, poor public maintenance, lack of convenient public transportation, and other significant social factors all led to the riots.

These aspects of the Watts Riots are well-known and are usually the subjects addressed when discussing the event. However, what's perhaps more interesting and much less known is that the neighborhood actually deteriorated even further after the riots occurred. Despite the various efforts to rejuvenate the district, the citizens of Watts have reported that the area has seen minimal improvement (note that you need to log in to ProQuest to view the webpage).

How could the neighborhood continue to decline in spite of the success of the programs aimed at improving the area? The answer is two-tiered: many of the programs were only short-term solutions, and the citizens who benefited tended to leave Watts as soon as was financially possible. A major problem with many of the projects focusing on contributing to the area's regrowth is that the solutions were only temporary. Improving the streets and public transportation are meaningless if these improvements are not maintained.

Additionally, considering the poor state of the Watts neighborhood, many of the citizens who found employment and financial aid through the new community-based programs left the area once it became financially viable to do so. From their perspective, it would be better to live in a slightly more expensive area if that meant escaping the poor conditions of Watts.

What can be learned? The answer is long-lasting solutions to underlying social problems. Had the programs and projects aimed at helping the Watts district simply maintained their efforts, the neighborhood would have avoided further decline. Although continuing these programs may cost more, the payoff would be worth the money considering the consequences are widespread unrest and eventual rioting.