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Letter from "a member

of the privileged class."

 
  

Dear Mr. Holdt, 

It makes me curious as to how an outsider can uncover the deepest secrets of our society and yet, not hate us for what you've found. It has always been my understand that foreigners thought all Americans were hypocrites for idealizing the American Dream and ignoring the actual nightmare. It gives me great hope to see that you've exposed the monster of our fears and retained your faith in mankind. Despite your terrible experiences, please continue your faith in the American people as in all people. Americans are conditioned to look upon the world as our Kingdom and thus, we neglect our own backyards. It is a sad form of optimism but one which is innate to the American, nonetheless. 

I must tell you that I have great respect for all you've done and in fact, I am very envious. As a member of the so-called "privileged" class, I find myself caught in a web of contradiction. Recently, I have wrestled with the truth that my American values and upbringing (which teach me to be generous, considerate, compassionate and hard-working) are falsehoods in the kind of life-style which I am encouraged to pursue. A sense of dread overwhelms me as I begin to envision myself sacrificing these values to become a productive, successful member of society. It is not my intent to become wealthy because I am sure that will only mean empty happiness if I have not satisfied my need to better my society. Instead, I frequently find myself romanticizing the middle class and their happy lives. This is not uncommon. Many of my friends have also shared this desire with me to live in a community of Americans where there is a strong sense of family and concern for others. 
This is the American Dream! It is interesting to know that many of the students on this campus, whose families earn over $100,000/yr. consider themselves to be members of the middle class. Of course, the majority of us far exceed the average income for a middle class family, but this clearly depicts the need for Americans to feel as though they are still in pursuit of a dream instead of in possession of one. We are a society of dreamers and it is because of this that your program brings us to tears. To see images of our down-trodden brethren pulls at our hearts and weigh on our consciences. It only shows us that after coming so far, we have much, much further to go before our Dream is realized. 

I have often tried to shake loose my American roots and leave this country behind for a more cultured, refined society in Europe, a society which does not face such hypocrisy. Yet, I have concluded that my heart would grow sick for this land and these people because they are so unique from all the world. Since I was a child my chest would pound when the national anthem was played and my eyes would water as our flag was raised. I have loved and hated every facet of this culture for the warmth which it embodied and the cold which enveloped it. Try as we may, Americans can never forget or reject their culture because although it is a melting pot, we have gained strength through our differences. Unfortunately, it is the prejudice among these differences which debilitates our society. I have a great trust in people and believe that if they can overcome this prejudice, America will be stronger than any nuclear power arsenal could make us. 

For whatever reasons, I have come to adore my people and take pride in America's land. I still struggle with the contradictions of my society but I now realize my commitment to these people and am no longer afraid of discovering the truth. Surprisingly, I feel free. I think your story unleashes the "drifter" in every American and teaches us not to be afraid of ourselves. You have somehow managed to capture the spirit which drove the early settlers of this country to search for justice and freedom. Change will come. Please keep the faith. We'll try to do our part. 

God Bless! 
Love and peace, 
Laurene 

 

 

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