The notion of the American Dream, whereby through hard work and earnest enterprise a citizen could rise to a comfortable standard of living is an exaggeration. Despite being the richest country in the world, the United States also has the greatest disparities in distribution of wealth. Moreover, public institutions in the country have failed to provide basic social welfare for the underprivileged section of the population. (Thesis) As the two poems – The Reservation Cab Driver and Mexicans Begin Jogging illustrate, the achievement of the American Dream remains elusive for a majority of Americans.
Of the 300 million American citizens, close to 50 million of them do not have basic health insurance. This is such a travesty in a country that is the sole superpower and the most prosperous. With the onset of the latest episode of economic recession, the unemployment rate has touched an alarming 10 percent. The main characters in the two poems have highly insecure jobs and barely scrap-by for a living. Living hand-to-mouth on a perennial basis, the attainment of American Dream is a distant and implausible reality for these people.
The Reservation Cab Driver is a man of Native Indian origin, whose rickety Malibu 65 also doubles up as his house. His rights for a basic social security blanket are taken away by the same government agencies such as Bureau of Indian Affairs and HUD, that were meant to provide benefits. Living a nomadic life as a Reservation Cab Driver and working 24 hours a day he cannot yet earn a subsistence wage. His condition typifies the status of Native Indians as a whole. Once the rightful inhabitants of the vast American continent, the arrival of European colonizers put an end to their peaceful existence. Ever since, nearly the entire population of Native Indians have been wiped out, with few remaining descendants such as the Reservation Cab Driver still struggling for survival. (Alexie, 2011, p.173)
The story is much the same in the case of the factory worker depicted in the poem Mexicans Begin Jogging. Although he claims to be a legally recognized American citizen, his boss brushes this aside as a lie and orders him to run away from the pursuing border patrol. In effect, he is grouped along with thousands of other Hispanic illegal immigrants, who risk their lives to cross over to the U.S in order to earn the almighty dollar. Similar to the condition of the Reservation Cab Driver, the prospects of Mexican workers (legal or illegal) in achieving the American Dream is rather illusionary. (Soto, 2011, p.193)
But Mexicans Begin Jogging ends in a positive note, perhaps hinting that the present struggles of disadvantaged communities like Indians and Mexicans might one day bear fruit. A testament to this belief is the acceptance of African Americans into mainstream American culture and politics.
Hence, in conclusion, it is apt to state that making the American Dream a reality is not within everybody’s reach. Certain communities in American demography are historically and politically disadvantaged. It would take a lot of perseverance from these people to rise up from their present dismal condition to a state of relative comfort and dignity. But the successful integration of African Americans, with one of its members recently becoming the nation’s President, must motivate and inspire the underprivileged lot to seek emancipation.
Alexie, Sherman. The Reservation Cab Driver. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 4th ed. James, Missy, and Alan P. Merickel. Pearson Education, Inc., 2011. p.173.
Soto, Gary. Mexicans Begin Jogging. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 4th ed. Ed. James, Missy, and Alan P. Merickel. Pearson Education, Inc., 2011. p.193.