The Secret Jewish History Of The American Dream
“The American Dream” refers to the notion that embedded in the founding documents of our nation is a framework that guarantees equality of opportunity for socio-economic success to all. Never mind that the reality of American history, law and socio-economic practice has been one that has at best been selective in who is allowed onto the playing field, and at worst has banned entire races and classes of people from the ballpark. Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about this:
“We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands ... when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning popular historian James Truslow Adams, who was born into wealth in the late 19th century, is often credited with coining the term “the American Dream” in his 1931 book, “The Epic of America.” Writing from his position as one who parlayed an inheritance into investment banking and a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Adams suggested that the American Dream could best be understood in contrast to the values that prevailed in Old Europe. His rather quaint definition — ignoring the social realities that denied opportunity to entire groups of Americans — was “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” Easy for him to say.
Adams wrote this optimistic paean at a time when the dream was turning into a nightmare, during the Great Depression, making it more of an apologia than a promise. But the truth is that Adams did not coin the term. He simply got credit for it. It was Walter Lippmann — the son of German-Jewish immigrants, also credited with coining the terms “stereotype” and “Cold War” – who first used the term “American Dream” in a 1914 book entitled “Drift and Mastery: An Attempt to Diagnose the Current Unrest,” in which he “urged readers to find a new dream for the twentieth century that would end the malaise of government inaction that had allowed American politics to aimlessly drift,” according
NOT EXACTLY THE JOAD FAMILY: Dorothea Lange took this photo of a billboard along California’s Highway 99 in 1937 during the Great Depression.
THE FLIPSIDE OF THE AMERICAN DREAM: In 1938, a man drinks at a ‘colored’ water cooler in a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.