It’s in the very fabric of the American myth and culture. It has permeated it from the beginning. Our art and entertainment. From the early novels to the show girls. This fantasy land vision that that anyone can make it here.
It has drawn people from cultures far and near. People who left their countries behind to see a fresh start. All believing that they could make a much better life over here. Reflected in film and radio and television and on the stage.
With heroes and heroines too numerous to name. Played by John Wayne and Randolf Scott and Irene Dunn and James Stewart and Ginger Rogers and Linda Darnell. The beautiful people and the flappers of the 1920s. That all it takes is hard work and imagination and you too can live the Horatio Alger story. All the heroes wore white hats and were white christian protestant males. That if you were poor and could not make it, it was your choice. Your fault. After all this is the land of opportunity. Blacks and Latinos and Chinese and Native Americans should be grateful for what they have and being allowed to live here. And they obviously preferred to live with their own kind. Slums ? American does not have slums and ghettos, those that live there – live like that because they want to. If you were rich, well you obviously worked hard to get that way.
One did not speak of homosexuals and abortions. Girls and women who got pregnant were obviously of low moral character and at worst sluts. And to be married and not have a family was unheard of and the couple were inadequate in some way, to be pitied or suspect. All wars were right and just and all veterans were war heroes. After all this was America and we stood for freedom and justice and mom and apple pie.
All families were pure and well off. That’s what Hollywood says. Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons and Make Room For Daddy and Dick Van Dyke and The Brady Bunch. Romance was boy meets girl in a Broadway Musical way like Micky Rooney and Judy Garland and nearly every popular song that made the Top 40. Anyone who could not find romance with a member of the opposite gender had to either ugly, uncouth or mentally disturbed in some way. Just not normal.
MGM and Warner Brothers musicals. Busby Berkley. Where even during the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s, people would flock to the movie houses to see this dream-scape life they still believed in, even in their darkest misery.
Bigger than life myths surrounded some of the cities as well. Chicago – Hog Butcher for the World, Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler, Detroit – The Motor City, NYC – Where The Boulevard of Broken Dreams Meets The Great White Way and Hollywood – where any boy or girl could make it big and become a star.
America – the land of innovation where everything from the combine harvester to television was invented.
But the facade is being slowly ripped away. Reality is intruding and causing people to see the truth. Like 1984 meets Brave New World. Disneyland with a dystopian underbelly provided by Fritz Lang. The Broadway Musical is no longer like 42 Street but now Urinetown. A Rod Serling version of Andy Hardy set in the dust bowl and Judge Hardy is on the take. Where the Horatio Alger character turns out to be no more than a two bit grifter and the presidential election like some black comedy written by Kurt Vonnegut.
All this…the unraveling of the American myth is making people crazy. Even those on the political left. And the world appears to be one gigantic study in cognitive dissonance.
But like the banker who kills himself when his money returns to being paper, these people refuse to accept that their whole view – their entire belief system was noting but a giant fantasy, a fairy tale. A lie perpetrated upon them that they swallowed hook, line and sinker. That it is not the fault of the kid who told them there is no Santa Claus, it was theirs entirely for refusing to accept the truth.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.