The day after my father died in August in Washington, DC, I used to be taking out the trash in my mother and father’ condominium constructing once I was intercepted by a garrulous 60-year-old janitor from El Salvador – we’ll name him César – who within the very brief time he had recognized 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 docs had pushed counterproductive however extremely profitable chemotherapy remedies 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 known as the cops on him, assuming he was drunk.
He finally ended up on the hospital, the place he was introduced with an $80,000 invoice in trade for the luxurious of not dying. Whereas hospitalised, he obtained a cellphone name from his employer, who knowledgeable him that he was fired for having a coronary heart assault reasonably 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 sueno americano”, or the American dream. He shrugged with a smile of resignation and launched into an brisk 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 up to now spent avoiding the US, my nation of start, just like the plague – for numerous causes, equivalent to the will to not enter into everlasting debt within the occasion of a medical emergency. Avoidance had turn into tougher when my mother and father returned to the homeland from Barcelona in 2021 as a consequence of a coronavirus pandemic-induced lapse in judgment.
In fact, given my US passport, I had all the time 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 typical Salvadoran thanks largely to quite a few a long time 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 one way or the other retained its mystique despite the truth that the truth on the bottom within the US itself is so typically horrific.
For starters, a home panorama of poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, mass shootings and criminally costly healthcare, training and housing choices ought to hardly represent the stuff of desires.
And for undocumented immigrants, the panorama may be much more grotesque, what with pervasive discrimination, xenophobic vitriol, and US authorities efforts to take youngsters away from asylum-seeking mother and father and in any other case make life hell for people who play an outsize position in sustaining the US economic system.
In Might, eight folks had been killed within the Texas metropolis of Brownsville on the US-Mexico border when an SUV rammed into a gaggle of primarily Venezuelan pedestrians close to a shelter serving homeless folks and refugees.
Shortly earlier than this incident, a group of Venezuelan and Colombian buddies of mine – whom I had met in February in Panama after they exited the huge refugee graveyard often 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 advised me, communicated primarily by way of curse phrases.
The Venezuelans within the group had been finally flown to Arizona and dumped again into Mexico; the Colombians had been launched into provisional “freedom” within the US, which shortly proved to be underwhelming.
A couple 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 not less than not so petrified that they wouldn’t even communicate to these in want. The US was an unattainable nation, my pal assessed, “particularly when you’re poor”.
A lot for the “American dream”.
Why, then, does the dream persist within the international creativeness?
To make certain, fantasies may be obligatory distractions from each day struggling – and no much less in Colombia, the place US-backed right-wing state terror on behalf of worldwide capitalism killed 1000’s upon 1000’s of peasant farmers and different Colombians. In such conditions, the dream of bodily and financial security generally is a buoy, even when it occurs to be related to the nation accountable for annihilating everybody’s desires.
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 buddies promptly set about crafting upbeat TikTok productions – set to reggaeton music – to publicise an imagined model of their new lives to buddies again dwelling. In a single video, one in all my buddies 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 idea. 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 not less than grammatically appropriate.
However the fact of the matter is that US-directed free market capitalism – and its imposition, typically at gunpoint, on different nations – is what drives a lot migration within the first place.
Overlook the “freeway to the American Dream”. The one place this freeway goes is a nightmare.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.