The American dream to me is very metaphorical. I think of it in historical terms, going back to the Puritans. To the Puritans who came from England, America was a land of complete newness. And they were going to establish God’s colony in the wilderness. And so the dream of the America was a religious dream, basically. America is a very religious nation. Not a mono-religious nation because there are many different strands of belief, but there’s something about this nation that inspires people, or perhaps draws people, who are strongly idealistic. And even though they may be multimillionaires, ultimately, and they may be capitalists and very pragmatic and materialist in their methods, yet they seem to be stimulated by idealism. And they seem to carry with them these seeds of religion.
In the major industrialized nations of the world, particularly the European nations, it’s most unusual to have a high degree of religious participation among the citizens. The United States is very different from European nations. Their civilization is older than ours, but it’s also been contaminated by history. We had the Civil War, which was very terrible, but it’s not quite like World War I and World War II and the devastation of wars in Europe in such a small space. We seem to be different in that we still have this capacity for belief and idealism, but at the same time, we’re very pragmatic. We’re a very physical nation. We have crime rates that are unbelievable to the civilized nations of Europe. Everyone in this country could have a gun. There are so many firearms in this country. This is astonishing, let’s say, to Sweden or to England. They can’t believe we’re living in something like the Wild West.
All these things go together in a strange way. So the American dream is a multi-metaphor made up of distinct regions. Many regions of this country are almost like different countries. Even in one state, northern and southern California are like two separate countries. In Europe, they would be two countries perhaps. So the American dream is very diverse and, in a way, mysterious. Perhaps it will come to its fruition in the 21st century.