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Zelimir Koljesar
American Studies 100
M. P. Wilkins
December 3, 2001.

Transcending The Limits…


What is the meaning of the word dream for you? According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, dream is defined as, "A strongly desired goal or purpose." To explain it even further, dreams push us forward day in and day out. Our personal dreams practically run our lives. Having this in mind, an American Dream instantly receives more light shining on it since it is a reigning ideology of an American culture.

We have talked in class about what the American Dream actually is and in my essay I will be expanding on this topic. However, what every single individual in this country will sooner or later face are the limitations of his or her dream. I can say "every single individual" because these limitations begin from "minor" topics such as buying a BMW instead of a Ferrari and stretch out to more complicated ones such as poverty for example. The key question to ask is, "Can we transcend the limits of the reigning ideology?"

Looking back in my notes the first topic I come along are the Native People and African Americans. The history that these two cultures had to go through has not been the brightest. Natives have lost most of the land that was so valuable to them. Land gave them life and white people knew that. African Americans have gone through the experiences of slavery. A topic that is still alive through stereotypes and racism today. However, what fascinates me is that the spirit of these two cultures has always remained strong and powerful. The spirit inside is what kept the people going. Natives built their spirit with story telling and we can see an example from Momaday's book. African Americans simply never stopped singing. The music is what gave them life. What I believe in is that this is how these two cultures were capable of going beyond limitations of their dreams in order to keep moving ahead. Taking a step back and looking at the present American culture, we can notice how tables have turned around and how huge of an influence we have from African Americans in areas such as fashion and definitely music. Eventually, the spirit of these cultures did expand their "limitation circle".

The field trip to the museum was an interesting one. Christopher Gist Lee brought up a topic about the system's thinking during our class. This prompted me to think about my own place in this world and how I fit in with everything. The idea of system's thinking can explain the limitations a little bit more. Looking at the big picture we can see how Pennsylvania State University is a system that we are a part of and that we live in. There are rules that we need to follow. These rules are for regular students, student-athletes, professors and others. As soon as I mentioned rules, I am bringing the limitations in the context. If the rules are broken, the consequences follow. However, Mr. Lee also said, "You shape the culture you then live in." For me there are two meanings behind this statement. First, by making educated choices about our life, we can become content with living in a system and in a way cover up the idea of the limitations in our minds. Second, by obtaining information we can do something about our lives and improve our standard of living, which would mean going beyond the present limitations to some extent. James Morrow does send a message how individuals should be responsible about the choices that they make and how we should live a good life. I would rather live in a divine environment than in a corrupt one such as the world today can at times be. When I look at the September 11th incident, I do realize that at times different events affect us in making the choices. The terrorist attack changed a lot of views on things, such as freedom for example. This, and every other past event, we cannot get back, just learn from it and move on. However, I do believe that we can make responsible and powerful choices if they are not too extreme.

My family is an immigration family. Immigration brings with itself variety of different aspects of how limited the American Dream can actually be. I have mentioned in my midterm the phrase, "Everyone wants a piece of the pie," since it makes perfect sense. Families move to States because they are looking for something bigger and better. This goal forces them to leave everything behind and start from scratch. The problem is that usually immigrants come from countries that have lower standings in comparison to where they move. What this means is that the education they have rightfully earned does not matter anymore. To make it even worse, language makes it even more difficult to adjust and start over. Therefore, they instantly have limitations placed upon them without even realizing it. What happens then is that the only jobs the immigrants find are the low paying ones. My dad used to be a journalist; now he is a machine operator in a gear cutting company. My mom used to be a secretary; now she has a part time job doing clerical duties in a bank. The standard of living that immigrants have is higher in comparison to their native country, but in comparison to the present society it is much lower. A question comes in handy here, "Would you rather be the first man in the village, or the last man in the city?" Mrs. Wilkins' phrase is also worthy of mentioning, "America is a capitalist's democracy that runs on backs of the poor." However, what keeps majority of parents moving forward are their children. I have personally witnessed parents who are willing to "sacrifice" themselves in order for their kids to have a better future. This is the way for the parents to transcend themselves and experience what they emigrated for in the first place. The pride for the young ones is an amazing force.

James Loewen wrote a full chapter about the class system. This topic simply follows the topic of immigration. Mrs. Wilkins described that being an American is, "…democratic capitalism at its best and worst." Best being the upper class and worst being the lower class. An individual is not given a choice at birth, but is born into his/her own social rank. Johnson wrote about how unfair it is for blacks to live in a rotten system that they have not created themselves. This idea can be applied with the class system. Life is a balance and of course we need to have good and bad, or rich and poor. You cannot avoid it. In my opinion, a person today is being limited mostly by how rich they are and what connections they may have. To a big extent this can predetermine how far up the ladder you can move. When looking at the poor people in the society, it can be hard for their children to have a bright future when they might not ever get an education. Education is probably one of the most valuable assets to have to be "successful" in the society and this can be "obtained" at institutions such as colleges and universities. However, I do believe that there is a way upward. Unfortunately, it does not happen to everyone. For example, individuals do get loans nowadays in order to get themselves through school. The academic and athletic scholarships given to students automatically open numerous doors. A silly example is if one wins a lottery, he or she can be set for life. The one problem being with these examples is that this does not happen to a lot of people and kids usually tend to remain the same social status as their parents. But, as I said, there is a way…

My family did emigrate from Yugoslavia because we were all affected by the war. Personally, war is honestly the stupidest action to take! I will never understand why wars exist and what is it all for? It definitely is a mystery to me. We cannot glorify war. Besides the innocent people who suffered in Vietnam, the next people in line who were deeply affected by the tragedies of that war were the soldiers. From watching the movie and reading Loewen I learned that the soldiers had two choices, either to go to jail or join the army and go defend their country. Plenty of options were given there, weren't they? Not knowing any better, their choice was Vietnam. O'Brien wrote on page 199 how the unknowable was driving the soldiers crazy. They didn't know the true reason why they were fighting and they didn't know where the enemy was because it seemed as Vietnamese were invisible. How could they even make a reasonable choice about anything? O'Brien wrote about how soldiers did not have much saying and they simply did what they were told to do. To transcend the limits while being in the war is close to impossible. A way for the number of soldiers to find an escape was to do drugs and temporarily make it all better. Only the injured ones could say that they were somewhat safer. What we can be thankful for is that eventually it all comes to an end.
Life is a beautiful thing and events occur for a reason. Our life is playing out in front of us and we do try to be in charge of it. I firmly believe that we do have the control and we can make our own choices. Unfortunately, the limits are unavoidable. However, at times there is a way around them. This is up to us to figure out. Life is too short and it does fly by. We have to act and make things happen the way we want them to happen. All that matters is that we have a smile at the end of the day…



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