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 after I was intercepted by a garrulous 60-year-old janitor from El Salvador – we’ll name him César – who within the very quick 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 offered with an $80,000 invoice in alternate for the luxurious of not dying. Whereas hospitalised, he obtained a telephone name from his employer, who knowledgeable him that he was fired for having a coronary heart assault reasonably than exhibiting 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 to date spent avoiding the US, my nation of start, just like the plague – for varied causes, corresponding to the will to not enter into everlasting debt within the occasion of a medical emergency. Avoidance had change into harder when my mother and father returned to the homeland from Barcelona in 2021 because of a coronavirus pandemic-induced lapse in judgment.
After all, given my US passport, I had all the time been in a position to take my decide of different nations wherein to move my time – including El Salvador, an more and more widespread vacation spot for the privileged gringo “expat” crowd however not such a protected place for the typical Salvadoran thanks largely to quite a few many years of US-backed right-wing state terror.
And but for a lot of Salvadorans and numerous different individuals on the receiving finish of US-fuelled distress, the entire “American dream” has someway retained its mystique regardless of the truth that the fact on the bottom within the US itself is so usually horrific.
For starters, a home landscape of poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, mass shootings and criminally costly healthcare, schooling and housing choices ought to hardly represent the stuff of desires.
And for undocumented immigrants, the panorama might be much more grotesque, what with pervasive discrimination, xenophobic vitriol, and US authorities efforts to take kids away from asylum-seeking mother and father and in any other case make life hell for folk who play an outsize position in sustaining the US economic system.
In Could, eight people were killed within the Texas metropolis of Brownsville on the US-Mexico border when an SUV rammed into a bunch of primarily Venezuelan pedestrians close to a shelter serving homeless individuals and refugees.
Shortly earlier than this incident, a group of Venezuelan and Colombian friends of mine – whom I had met in February in Panama once they exited the huge refugee graveyard generally known as the Darien Gap en path to the US – crossed into El Paso, one other Texas border city. They have been detained by US immigration personnel who, they informed me, communicated primarily through curse phrases.
The Venezuelans within the group have been finally flown to Arizona and dumped again into Mexico; the Colombians have been launched into provisional “freedom” within the US, which shortly proved to be underwhelming.
Just a few 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, individuals have been at the least not so petrified that they wouldn’t even converse to these in want. The US was an unattainable nation, my good friend assessed, “particularly in the event you’re poor”.
A lot for the “American dream”.
Why, then, does the dream persist within the international creativeness?
To make certain, fantasies might be obligatory distractions from every 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 liable for annihilating everybody’s desires.
There are different causes American dream mythology is so resilient. There’s the worldwide attain of US “tradition”, ie, quick meals, films and normal 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 associates promptly set about crafting upbeat TikTok productions – set to reggaeton music – to publicise an imagined model of their new lives to associates again house. In a single video, one in all my associates sauntered down the sidewalk blissfully swinging purchasing baggage.
Again in 2008, then-US president George W Bush remarked: “Free market capitalism is way over financial principle. 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 at the least grammatically right.
However the fact of the matter is that US-directed free market capitalism – and its imposition, usually at gunpoint, on different nations – is what drives much migration within the first place.
Neglect 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.