Rodolfo F. Acuña
The United States is the land of illusions. Like Disneyland, it is more fiction than reality. The American Dream is part of surreal world, constructed as a form of social control that distorts the memory Americans blinding to the injustices, inequalities and imperfections of American society. Like old Shirley Temple movies, Americans are princes and princesses who pass through bad times believing that they will be saved because they are Americans.
These illusions are built around myths such as that of Horatio Alger that has persisted for over 150 years. For Americans Horatio Alger is as real as Superman.
Horatio Alger Jr in 1867 published the first of over 120 books that told the tale of rags to riches to young working class boys. The moral of the stories was that if the boys led exemplary lives, struggled against poverty and adversity that they could make it. Someday they would be rich and heirs to the American Dream.
The stairway to the American Dream was meritocracy and education. America was the land of opportunity, every American if he worked hard enough could get an education; it was free and more accessible in the United States than any place in world. Opportunity was knocking, and it was your fault if you did not take advantage of it.
The Horatio Alger Myth resembles fantasy tales such as Superman, Captain America, Spiderman and Batman. The truth be told, Horatio Alger just like education has never been equal or free in America.
Even during the Post-World War II era when the illusion was more plausible, accessibility depended on the hue of one’s skin and his or her social class.