The United States is perceived by many to be the ideal country. A land of opportunity where all your dreams can come true and as some say, “money grows on trees”. Although it is true that we project this image of ourselves as wealthy successful and happy to the world, in many cases it a false ideology that few can obtain. We base ourselves as a country on freedom and the ability to have control over our own lives. When in reality this is not entirely true. Some say that we have a paradoxical country and in order to assess the validity of this statement we must first create an understanding of the word paradox itself.
Often confused with the word hypocrisy, paradox is a complex word that can have a slew of meanings. Hypocrisy involves a personal contradiction. To be hypocritical one sets a set of standards for others that they can’t reach themselves. Paradox had a less strait forward meaning. I have gathered a general definition based on multiple sources and came up with this; a statement or proposition that seems self contradictory. A good example of a paradoxical statement is, “i always tell lies”. This is paradoxical because you wouldn’t know if the person is telling the truth or lying, thus it contradicts itself.
When you look at the ideological principles of our country you can isolate three generalized ideas that supposedly express the roots of our beliefs. They are; all men are created equal, everyone has equal rights, and freedom of speech. These all seem like fantastic things to have in a government, but as you look closer you can see how our perceptions have been warped. These have remained as purely ideals for many and never became a reality. There are examples of the true extent of “american ideals”, as we call them, in many literary works.
The first ideal of “all men are created equal” is a paradoxical expression right from it’s creation. This was said by the founding fathers when fighting for independence from the British. If you stop to assess the statement in regards to that time period alone you can find two major examples of paradox. First is the war itself. We were fighting a war against a country that saw us as a lower class os citizen. This shows that we were fighting for something that already was not a reality. The second is slavery. Both before and after the war we had slaves.
There are ample examples of how we treated them as lesser beings, starting with the name of slaves. We saw ourselves as being held in bondage by the british, but even after we won independence we kept others in bondage worse than what we had experienced. Some can argue that this was different because it was a different time period then and slavery was held a societal normality. This may be true but when you look at how it progressed not much has changed. Even though there was the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. acism is still very real. Society sees african americans as lesser people. Statistically they have more challenges getting jobs, loans, and even an education than whites. Individually we may not see ourselves as racist, but it has been deeply embedded in our society. In the book Macho we are shown how Caesar Chaves is fighting for the equality of mexican immigrant workers. This is a similar story to the fight for the equality of african americans. It is also a good example of how we are prejudice towards to other races, not just one.
The statement “all men are created equal” is paradoxical because it’s core principles are not reality in our country. The second ideal of “everyone has equal rights” can again be seen as paradoxical right from it’s origin. This statement was said more a public relations slogan than i reality of the time. In early colonial times your rights were directly related to your wealth and the amount of land you owned. From here we find our earliest “true” ideal as a country. Money equals power. The wealthy held influence and used this statement to gain the support of the lower class.
This is another example of how men were not created equal. Some will say that this was the true ideals of the men in those times but many of the men who instigated the revolution were wealthy merchants who stood to gain the most from independence. Without the help of the farming class (due to their manipulation and trickery) they would have been powerless. Today money still holds the same weight, Although the average person now has more say, the wealthy still have the power. The celebrities and famous people are the ones with the most influence.
In the book Ceremony, the separation of people is shown when the main character visits a holy man, While there he sees how the native americans are seen as a lesser group of people and are separated to the outskirts of the city. Because of this separation they have less rights than the people who are permitted to live within the city. A good example of people having less rights are the mexican immigrant workers. As portrayed in the book Macho the workers have virtually no rights. Once in america they have the lowest opportunity for work. They literally have no rights and if they got caught they would be deported.
Many will say that it is their own fault for illegally entering our country. But they do so in seek of work. They do the jobs no one else is willing to do and we still treat them like garbage and remove the rights that everyone should have. Because the statement “everyone has equal rights” contradicts itself based on our own actions and the situation in which it was created, it is paradoxical. The last ideal “freedom of speech” is an example of paradox not in a political sense but in a more personalized sense. When this statement was first said it was regarding the government.
It is true that you could say what you want about our government, but people couldn’t in individual households. If you talked back to your parents you would face punishments that could even include beating. The same still applies to todays society. We are capable of sharing our thoughts about the government and political aspects even more. We have even developed political tv shows. However the household ideals are still virtually the same. In todays society the parents have final say and in many households if the children backtalk they get punished.
Some say that for both time periods this is acceptable because the adults hold the responsibility. It is true that many children are immature and don’t understand all aspects in consideration, but the statement doesn’t say that. It says that everyone has freedom of speech but the imposed limitations directly contradict it. making it paradoxical. “A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth”. This is a possible definition for the word paradox and there are two key aspects to it.
First is self-contradictory and second is possible truth. The self-contradictory aspect os significant because it shows the nature of the majority of our country’s ideals. “A possible truth”. This is the base of our societal ideals. All are purely ideas and can be made a reality but limitations and self-contradictory statements make them unobtainable for the majority of citizens. The United States. Land of freedom and opportunity. Paradoxical society. We have our set of ideals that we claim to follow, but with each one we can find examples of contradiction.