Driving around Elk Grove over the Memorial Day weekend, it might have been difficult to miss the signs of Americana and patriotism on display. , barbecues, and those paying their respects to America's fallen veterans - it seemed people chose not only to celebrate a holiday, but celebrate a vision of America, or more accurately, celebrate their vision of America.
The custom of decorating a soldier's grave in America dates back before the Civil War era and was incorporated into an official holiday in 1865. It would seem that tradition has changed little. Indeed, the idea of celebrating America and those who have helped define and maintain that definition is an art in and of itself. The story of decadence amidst the backdrop of a post-World War I America fueled the creative mind of F. Scott Fitzgerald's seminal novel The Great Gatsby. Alternatively, author Hunter S. Thompson wrote of American depravity on display during the . The messages either spoke in celebration of or in tribute to an altruistic vision of America.
However, times have changed many things in America, including, perhaps, our fundamental ideas of what makes America, well, America. The American Dream for many was not only a standard of living, it was perhaps a promise to all Americans: If you followed a certain set of guidelines or rules, you too could earn a competitive income, support a family of four, have two cars, picket fences, trips to Bermuda ... you get the picture. There was optimism. There was reason to believe the hard work and long hours would someday pay off.
Does that vision still hold true today? According to a National Public Radio report, those who still believe in the American Dream may be those who have probably already attained it. For the ones struggling, though, it may be a different story.
According to the US Census, the average man working full-time today is making 10 percent less money last year than he did a decade ago.
The idea raises many questions: Like author Jack Kerouac once pondered, "Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" Has that idea of the American Dream been lost? Can it be restored? Are we seeing the beginning of a new era for the American Dream and what it means?
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