Does the American dream really still exist?
Time for a new one American dream
At the southern end of Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia's capital, stands the latest chapter in American history, opened in the summer of 2020. Robert E. Lee, cast in bronze and with his back arched, holds the reins of his horse in his hand. The former commander in chief of the Confederate States Army, the Army of the Confederate States of America, is enthroned high above the tree tops on the four-lane avenue with the expensive city villas. The proud symbol of the struggle of the southern states in the American Civil War was not erected during these hot, tense months. The statue has been there since 1890.
Only the newly erected concrete barricades around the traffic island with the monument now give the place a modern coat of paint - in the literal sense: "ACAB", the abbreviation for "all cops are bastards", has someone in bright colors on the almost 15 meter high stone base where the statue stands, brushed. In addition, “BLM” for Black Lives Matter, “Stop killing us” and an unmistakable “Fuck Trump”.
It is the perfect reflection of America this summer: a symbol of slavery immediately meets the slogans of liberation. Only there is no winner in this battle. During the nationwide protests after the violent death of the African American Georg Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, numerous statues of generals and politicians whose fame was based on the pain and subjugation of others fell. Lee's memorial was not demolished - a court order after complaints from residents, among others, prevented that. The statue resembles American society: still in good condition, but in some places dilapidated and clearly scratched.
The old bronze heroes falling elsewhere were again a snapshot of something much bigger: America is currently experiencing, once again, a cultural awakening that comes more in the form of a reckoning. The myth of the American Dream, the chance for everyone to have a good life, has long been refuted without having lost its fundamental appeal. After Floyd's death by a white policeman, however, it becomes clear how destructive structural racism is still affecting the lives of black Americans. Among other things, it is about access to education, jobs, finance and healthcare. How much it crunches in the latter is reflected drastically in the numbers of corona infections. African Americans are three times more likely to contract Covid-19 than white Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“America will either wipe out ignorance,” wrote sociologist WEB Du Bois at the beginning of the 20th century about the African-American struggle for equality, “or ignorance will wipe out the United States.” The ongoing protests against discrimination, as most recently after the shooting Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, reignited America's long-simmering culture war.
Unsurprisingly, the demonstrators at the moment have no ally in their president. On the contrary, on the evening of June 1st there was a loud bang in Lafayette Square, the park in front of the White House, tear gas was in the air. The peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of the barrier at Donald Trump's official residence were brutally evicted by security forces so that Trump could stand for a photo in front of the church opposite. The American president was given a Bible, which he turned, turned and finally held up like a trophy. A few weeks later, on the evening before Independence Day, Trump warned in South Dakota of a “new left-wing extremist fascism” whose weapon was “cancel culture”.
America cares about America
Anyone who thinks that they hardly recognize the USA under its 45th President is of course right. What has happened in the White House over the past three and a half years is not normal. But part of the truth is that Donald Trump did not mark the beginning of polarization, but it did help his political rise.
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