A Different Road, by Rich Paschall
There are many people, especially those who live in third world countries I presume, who live in poverty, can not get a good education or good job, have infrastructure in need of building or repair, and have government leaders who only take care of the rich and those with special interests. They have little hope of something better in their own country so they dream of going elsewhere. If they can get a passport, a visa and enough money, many still aspire to travel to the USA. When they arrive, all but the lucky few will eventually discover that they have moved to a country where many live in poverty, can not get a good education or good job, have infrastructure in need of building or repair, and have government leaders who only take care of the rich and those with special interests. In fact U.N. Envoy Philip Alston (Australian) found things to be quite bleak. “The American dream, he says, is an ‘American illusion’.” (as reported on NRP.org).
Once they have arrived, these immigrants can not turn around and go back. They have sold everything and come with just a suitcase or two of clothes and memories. Right wing nationalists will tell them to go home, but there is no home to return to. They have already given up everything. The only choice is to try to make the best of it. Many will eventually succeed. Some will stay and struggle. Some will return to a land they had hope to give up forever.
These immigrants certainly did not expect the streets to be paved with gold, but they certainly felt the standard of living was high and almost everyone had instant success. Life was just one large party where everyone dressed in good clothes, ate well and enjoyed the good life. Some friends of mine who have come from other countries tell me that friends back home still believe in the great American Dream even when relatives who live here tell them it is not so. What fuels this “streets paved with gold” thinking? Why does anyone think someplace else is better if relatives say it is not? Do they not hear the discouraging comments of our right-wing politicians?
Anyone can see the road that they walk on
Is paved in gold
And it’s always summer
They’ll never get cold
They’ll never get hungry
They’ll never get old and grey
The Grass Is Greener: If you live in an area where the prospects are bleak, it may seem logical to believe that life must be better somewhere else. Your heart and mind may tell you, “This can not be all there is.” From there you may make plans to travel to a place where life will be better. It seems to be in our nature to believe in “the grass is greener somewhere else”, especially if you have no grass at all.
Depression and Hope: It is certainly depressing to live in a community, and in fact a country, where there is little hope to get ahead in society. If you struggle to get enough food for your meager existence, then going elsewhere is the logical response. If the US offers hope to you, then that may be your destination of choice. But why do people see USA as the place to go? What continues to fuel the belief for many that everyone lives on easy street in America?
Television: Many successful American television shows are broadcast all over the world. I watched The Simpsons in Spanish in Colombia, but there were also a variety of comedies and dramas. Would “Friends” give you a good idea of what life is like in America? Would any of the other long running comedies or dramas show an accurate picture? Do the police procedurals, as many now call them, reassure people since the bad guy is always caught? People are not living in poverty or struggling to get by in these shows.
Music Videos: For younger people there seems to be an endless supply of music videos in Spanish as well as English showing the non stop dance party. Beautiful young people in fashionable clothes are dancing on rooftops and beaches, across New York City, Miami and Los Angeles and living the good life. Everything must be good as everyone seems to be having fun.
These random thoughts of mine are supported by more than the anecdotal evidence provided by the tales of my neighbors. If you live in or near a large US Metropolitan area, you can hear many stories that are the same if you care to listen. As far back as Benjamin Franklin, people “have formed, through ignorance, mistaken ideas and expectations of what is to be obtained there.” We have disappointed immigrants from the beginning, and their stories are always being told.
The sad stories of those who travel here are also the disappointments for many of us. The wealthy class may get ahead through inheritance and connections, while the rest struggle. At present, the government promotes the idea that the rich should get richer, as in the previously failed promise that the money in the pockets of the rich will somehow benefit all. This trickle down nonsense is not portrayed in the American television shows and music videos playing in other countries.
Sources: “The Way“ by Fastball, lyrics by Tony Scalzo, https://www.azlyrics.com
“America Has Been Disappointing Immigrants For A Long Time“ by Jared Favole, https://medium.com
“U.N. Investigator On Extreme Poverty Issues A Grim Report — On The U.S.” by Sasha Ingper, www.npr.org
“U.S. students’ academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries,” February 15, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org