May 19, 2014

The heart of the American Dream: The Church and The Exchange

In the heart of what was once the Occupy Wall Street movement stands a wonderful old Anglican church called Trinity.

This is the third Trinity Church to stand in this location; the first was built in 1698. Many of the grave markers reveal a time before the American Revolution.

Behind the church, behind the grave yard, is the centre of American business: The New York Stock Exchange. It was founded in 1792.

There is a contrast between the old and new here. Just as there is in this country. The Occupy movement fizzled, though the questions about distribution of wealth remain. Nicholas Kristof recently wrote in the Times about economic disparity and the American Dream, how that dream has faded, perhaps even disappeared, and became the Canadian dream.

In his column, Kristof mentions three facts that might seem surprising to many Americans, especially here in the wealthiest of all cities:
  • American women are twice as likely to die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth as are Canadian women
  • the six heirs to the Walmart estate are worth as much as the bottom 41percent of all US households put together
  • the top 1 percent in the US have wealth and property worth more than the entire bottom 90 percent

Kristof suggests at the end of his piece that the American Dream be brought home from exile, which might imply that the Dream was somehow removed from America, in this instance by Canadians. The truth is that the Dream was stolen by the rich and powerful of America itself, with the acquiescence of the Church and the deliberations of the best government money can buy. Getting it back, both the Dream and the government, will not be easy.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.