A Rhetorical Analysis Of "American Way"

The song "American Way" by the thrash metal band Sacred Reich released in 1990 lays bare to the inherent hypocrisy that is the American Dream. This rhetorical essay will decipher the lyrics and how each stanza paints a picture. It will also examine how the American Dream as an illusion has continued to erode since 1990 by providing social/economic evidence to put the song in a broader perspective.

The American Dream has been a core ethos of this nation since the very beginning. It is a philosophy that peaches that if one works hard and honestly enough than anything possible. However, like all ethos, the truth is often less than ideal. As shown in the first line in stanza one sung by lead singer Phil Rind: "Truth and honor, faith & pride." (Reich), speaks of how the United States has always presented itself as a beacon of humanity's best hopes and aspirations. However, by the second line: "All convictions surely died" (Reich), informs the listener that these virtues have lost their meaning. The following two lines: "Honesty's time has passed," and "Time for lies is here at last" (Reich), fills in the picture that America's supposed values are nothing more than deceptions. Which are coming harder for the powers that be to justify as the reality of America's excess and brutality both domestically and abroad are coming full circle. However, who were the powers that be in 1990? Undoubtedly, the Republicans of the 1980s and early 90s had presented themselves to the American People as the champions and defenders of the American Dream. A dream that seemed under threat before 1980, a sentiment that Ronald Reagan would share at his first inaugural address, in which he argued: "The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." (Reagan). However, the song later reveals the consequences that this type of thinking can have on society. Explaining thoroughly how careless Reagan and the Republican Party were, and how the American Dream became more of an illusion for the vast majority of Americans.

The hypocrisy of the American Dream continues in the fifth stanza, in which Phil Rind sings how: "This was once the land of dreams," followed by the lines: "Now these dreams have turned to greed, in the midst of this wealth, the poor are left to help themselves." (Reich). What is implied here is the idea of America being a land of opportunity for would-be immigrants. That fortunes can be made overnight as well as lost. However, competition in the American way of life, as worshipped by Reagan and the Republicans was one of social Darwinism, in which only the cunning and amoral rise to the top. However, the revolution that Reagan ushered in the 1980s would see this kind of behavior only intensify. As such, one of the negative, long term consequences is now the dramatic wealth gap between the wealthiest 10% compared to the combined bottom 90% total wealth. How they achieve, this was by supply-side economics, which can be explained by Journalist, Fredrick Allen, in which he elaborates: "The idea was simple: Cutting taxes, especially at the top, would spark such economic growth that people's incomes would rise even faster than their tax rates would fall. In effect, the wealth of the richest would "trickle down" to the rest of us." (Allen). This, of course, never happened as Rind clearly points out in the fifth stanza. With "the poor are left to help themselves." (Reich), one must wonder, how real is the American Dream be then? 

Given the information distilled in the previous paragraph, a question needs to be addressed and answered. Is the America Dream dead? Rind seems to argue so as he sings the chorus in stanza six: "A capitalist democracy, why no one said that freedom's free, Lady liberty rots away, no truth, no justice, the American Way." (Reich). What is happening here is that eventually, the economic model in which the United States prides itself on. That being an extreme variation of laisse faire capitalism always leads to injustice, dishonesty, and oligarchy. Further evidence can be provided by Venessa Hughes, in which she argues: "The financial crisis of 2008 highlighted the fragility of the current economic system as people lost their homes and their savings. In its wake, job growth in the United States has primarily been in the low-wage and temporary sectors, keeping average workers in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, their upward mobility threatened by everyday life events such as childbirth, divorce, or illness." (Hughes). Given these circumstances and the passing of time, it is only natural that people have become disillusioned and cynical about the American Dream, seeing that it only favors those born in wealth and privilege. Rind seems to even amplify these sentiments in stanza twelve by asking the listener: "Are you happy? Are you Sad? Are emotions a thing of the past, I have no tears, I cannot cry. No one mourns for a world that's died." (Reich). As such, the American Dream finally shows itself for it is, a nightmare masquerading as a romantic illusion. 

Sacred Reich's "American Way" aggressive dismantling of the American Dream leaves any would be listener to begin questioning the validity of America's ethos. Be it truth, equality, and justice for all, or the sanity/sustainability of American capitalism. In essence, what is commonly propagated may very well not be true? Because what is regular or dear for some, is not so for everyone.