Nov 4th 2020

I Want My American Dream Back

by Alon Ben-Meir

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is an expert on Middle East politics and affairs, specializing in peace negotiations between Israel and the Arab states. For the past twenty five years, Dr. Ben-Meir has been directly involved in various negotiations and has operated as a liaison between top Arab and Israeli officials. Dr. Ben-Meir serves as senior fellow at New York University's School of Global Affairs where he has been teaching courses on the Middle East and negotiations for 18 years. He is also a Senior Fellow and the Middle Eastern Studies Project Director at the World Policy Institute. Dr. Ben-Meir hosts "Global Leaders: Conversations with Alon Ben-Meir," a series of debates and conversations with top policy-makers around the world. He also regularly holds briefings at the US State Department for international visitors. Dr. Ben-Meir writes frequently and has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and websites including the Middle East Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Le Monde, American Chronicle, the Week, the Political Quarterly, Israel Policy Forum, Gulf Times, the Peninsula, The Jerusalem Post, and the Huffington Post. He also makes regular television and radio appearances, and has been featured on networks such as CNN, FOX, PBS, ABC, al Jazeera (English and Arabic), and NPR. He has authored six books related to Middle East policy and is currently working on a book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. He is fluent in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.

As a little Jewish boy in the streets of Baghdad I was looked upon by Arab boys my age as inferior. I became accustomed to it as if it were a natural phenomenon which I could do little to change.

When my family and I landed in Israel following the historic exodus of the Iraqi Jews I did not understand why we were uprooted to go to a foreign land. But even at that tender age of nine or ten I felt that being among other Jewish boys I would no longer be looked down upon; but that was not the case. I wondered why, why? ‘We are Sephardic Jews,’ my brother told me ‘the Ashkenazi Jews do not think of us as equal’ and so, living among my fellow Jews did not change my plight.

I left Israel to study in Europe and could not help but look back but in anger.To my chagrin, though not as much to my surprise here too, in the cradle of Western democracies, racism and discrimination were just under their skin. And I could feel it deep in my veins. In France I was seen as an undesirable intruder. In England, a foreigner, a stranger. Though I loved the European culture and their way of life Europe was not a welcoming home to meet my yearning desire.

All the while I had been hearing about the “American dream”. The magic, the sound these two words exude wholly captured my imagination. Going back to the lands that rejected me was no longer the path I’ll travel as my longing to reach the American shores was the only thing that was anchored in my mind.

I imagined America as the land of the free that gave voice to the forgotten. Where race, color, and creed do not matter and human rights are guarded with zeal. Where the ingathering of all cultures and people made it richer and human resources and talent knew no limits or constraints. Where opportunity awaits the able and generosity is extended to the needy. Where everyone is equal before the law and political differences are valued to make America better. Where sacrifices are willingly made to right the wrong morals and fortitude guide its leaders. Where caring about friends and allies is the hallmark of the nation and opposing oppression near and far is the emblem that distinguished America. This is the character of America. This is the soul of America. This is what made America great. The America that gave me a home. The America that fulfilled my dreams.

These were the ideals that held Americans together and with all that America stands for and believes in. America was never and is not a perfect union and every president—from Lincoln to Nixon has transgressed in one form or another. But then America’s strive to live up to its ideals has and will always be as if it were a new endeavor and no country in human history has risen to govern with such a vision and resolve placing the right of the individual at the core of its constitution. With all of its faults and failings two hundred and forty years of the American experience have made America the beacon for all nations. Young and old, large and small countries looked at America with awe and admiration.

Never has it occurred though to the multitude of Americans that one man, in four short years would nearly shatter everything that America stood for. He sullied the country’s character and fouled its soul. He gravely injured its revered institutions and battered its unity as one nation. He alienated Americans from one another and basked in the polarization and division he gleefully fostered. He betrayed America’s friends and allies and cozied up to its adversaries and foes. He tarnished America’s exceptionalism and grace
and sacrificed its greatness on the altar of his illusions and shame.

Trump is cunning, cruel, and corrupt, deranged, delinquent, and deceptive. He is a narcissist, white supremacist, and racist, a bigot, brutal, and beastly. Not a single maligning word in the English dictionary does not fit Trump’s personality and demeanor.

Four more years of Trump will irreparably impair America, tear the country asunder, weaken its exemplary institutions, sow chaos, trepidation, and fear threaten liberty and the freedom of the press and gravely poison the socio-political order. Four more years of Trump in power will permanently squander America’s leadership role, bankrupt America’s moral standing, embolden America’s enemies, compromise the security of our allies, and leave America’s foes to cheer its decline.

No man should be allowed to destroy America’s noble experience. His enablers—the Republican leadership their deafening silence is nothing short of treason. History will condemn them for having sold their country by putting their personal and party interest before the nation’s. They are so intoxicated with power caring less where America will be after four more years of Trump.
No, America will never be the same if they are allowed to crush the once-cherished American dream.

And as long I can discern right from wrong I will fight alongside millions of my fellow Americans to restore America’s greatness and grace because I want my American dream back.




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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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