The American Dream and the Poor Whites of America: American History, Tradition and Development

There was a radical change in the Western World during the period 1880 and 1914. It was a radical change that turned out to be the profound revolution that the West has ever known. It was then that a great mass of people began to live what today we might call the modern life, a…

There was a radical change in the Western World during the period 1880 and 1914. It was a radical change that turned out to be the profound revolution that the West has ever known. It was then that a great mass of people began to live what today we might call the modern life, a life free of hardships, toil and sweat. It was this period that average people began to eat better and dress less badly, and looking up to enjoying the carefree life.

Before this period, this kind of life only reserved for the ruling elite and those who supported them. From the 1880s in America people discovered the music of jazz and the blues. Millions stared at movie screens and listened to the first talkie films. A new exciting invention called the radio broadcast news, sports, and comedy right into a family's living room. Radio, movies, and sports made new national stars. Famous sports and movie stars of the 1920s included Babe Ruth, the home-run king; Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel; Mickey Mouse; and Clara Bow. Mickey Mouse was the greatest star, but the strange thing about Mickey Mouse was that he was a mouse!

Women left their husbands at home with babies and rushed to the cinema to see Rudolph Valentino, the sensual actor, sex symbol, and early pop icon known as the “Latin Lover”. By all perspectives it was the beginning of exciting enjoyable times indeed. Beginning of a life full of fun and carefree entertainment.
But in other places, in the countryside of America, France and England the picture was different. Most people remained insignificant and large invisible. Most of them were peasants – still lived in villages, there were no changes, and they lived much like their ancestors. Their diet was largely vegetarian because meat was expensive. Their homes were primitive, many shared their quarters with the family pig or goat or chicken. Some also shared their quarters with the cow. These quarters have no windows because they could not afford them.

Many have never seen a town. They were not part of the market economy – still less the national economy. For these people national politics were meaningless – something others did far away. In other places like France these sorts of people did not even know whether they were French or Spanish or Italian, there were just human beings.