View Full Version : AMERICAN DREAM: "Chasing the Red, White, and Blue"

29-04-06, 17:27
If you are Americophile, if you came to this country to presuit your American Dream, or if you believe in equality and demoncracy in this country, you MUST read ""Chasing the Red, White, and Blue" by David Cohen. Here is the brief summary and my understanding about this book. Feel free to criticize, but please do read the book first. Rehmet.

“Chasing the Red, White, and Blue” is a powerful and thought-provoking observation of lives of Americans in modern society. The author, David Cohen, traced the footsteps of French Aristocrat Alex De Tocqueville who traveled the United States 165 years ago, to explore if Tocqueville’s major findings -“equality of opportunity” and “pursuit of wealth” - still exist contemporary American society, and what had changed over the years. Cohen followed the same route of Tocqueville, New York, Flint, Michigan, Ohio Valley, the Old South and finally Washington, D.C., but he added a stop in California. He found out such concepts as freedom and liberty still remain as the national character of the United States. However, equality and American Dream which were the main characteristics of America in Tocqueville’s book – “Democracy in America” – turned out to be allusive or mistaken.

Unlike Tocqueville who basically only met white male upper class Americans, Cohen interviewed every level of American society – bus drivers, preachers, Washington lobbyists, high-powered real estate brokers, and illegal immigrants. He witnessed the widening economic gap between the rich and the poor in American society in which minimum wage workers cannot even support themselves, while the entrepreneurs have millions of dollars in the bank, such as the owner of Holiday Inn, who opens a new hotel every three days.

Cohen noticed “efficacy over aesthetics” in today’s American society, the rise of fast food restaurants, and discount department stores. He also observed the fervency and proliferation of Christianity unlike that of any European country. The religious leaders told him that the way of getting rid of poverty for the poor is conversion to Jesus, which is obviously not the fact. By comparing his interviews, observations, and thoughts with Tocqueville’s, Cohen found that many Americans may have never reached their own “American Dream” no matter how much effort or faith they put into it. He realized that due to increasing economic, political, and social inequality, the poor more alienated from the American society than ever before, and race and religion have become divisive social factors. Different ethnic/racial and religious groups are divided by their prejudices. However, he saw some hope: the Americans are still united by their passion for liberty and democracy.

Cohen considered Tocqueville’s findings of equality and democracy in American society as inaccurate because he didn’t have balanced group of interviewees. Most of the people Tocqueville encountered were successful elite, and always male and white. He ignored Blacks, Native Americans and other marginalized groups in the society. Thus, Cohen believed Tocqueville’s conclusions and praise of democracy in the United States can not reflect the reality of that era.

However, the book is not anti-American. It tells the truth of America and its citizens. It is the contrast between both sides of America: the extremely poor and the extremely rich. It shows the importance of being rich in American society and how the majority of American underclass keep their American dream alive. Cohen challenged the inequality and consumerist individualism of modern American, but he had great sympathy for American ideals of equality and contentment for all. One of the important points in this book is that there is no direct relationship between hard work and American dream. For many Americans the dream has already become a nightmare. Despites of this fact, the American spirit is alive. There is unquestioned inequality, but inequality is balanced by “unquenchable hope” for American way of life- liberty, equality, wealth and democracy.

It is hard to predict where America is going. As mentioned in the book, America is facing the challenges of widening gap between the working poor and independently wealthy, increasing ethnic and religious division, and further alienation of the poor from the center of American society. But I personally do not think this general disparity shows the decline of the United States and vanishing of national identity. A large number of immigrants, such as Hispanics, Asians, might contribute to the diversification of American culture and the formation of quite different ethnic identities in the United States of America. However, national faith in liberty, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, and private property will form the basis of American identity and will keep Americans together.