The American Dream

I’ve heard quite a bit over the last few years about the American Dream. Largely from people who don’t understand the concept.

It makes great political fodder, “Where is my American Dream?”, “American Dream unattainable for nation’s poor”, “Young people denied the American Dream”. Sounds awfully sad. I was sad when I heard people were no longer dreaming, dreams are important for mental health.

The American Dream is an idea, not a product. It is not something you receive at birth or upon crossing the border, it is a possibility, a chance. Living in America, many forget that there are places where there are no possibilities, no opportunities, no chances.

The American Dream is the promise that you will not be oppressed. You will be able to accomplish whatever you work for. Ahh, there’s the problem. You have to work for it. No one is preventing you from working, like they did in Kosovo or San Salvador. You don’t have to know someone or pay someone for an opportunity, but you do have to take advantage of the opportunity. You have to be smarter, faster, and willing to sweat. Sound familiar? That’s right, the American Dream is the permission to live by the law of the jungle.

And if you work hard, go without luxuries and save your money, you will be able to buy things. Everybody wants things don’t they?

The history of the American Dream predates America. In the 1600s immigrants began coming to these shores, looking for a fresh start, opportunities to own homes and businesses. They came to escape oppression, or intolerance. Wave after wave came through the centuries, America was universally known as “The land of Opportunity”. It is only recently that the definition of “opportunity” became “entitlement”.

There is not, nor was there often, a job waiting for you after graduation in the field you desire at the rate of pay that will be enough to buy a home, two cars, and a dog. You start at the bottom, and work your way up. But the “dream” has morphed into an idea that all these things are your right as an American. All those less than average intelligence folks can’t comprehend that.

Today, all the things that our parents and grandparents worked for are expected. Eight year olds have $300 phones. Everything is available on credit. Then when you can’t pay your bills, it’s the bank that’s “greedy”. It never occurs to people that they don’t need an SUV that gets sixteen miles to the gallon. They don’t need three large screen TVs. They don’t need every new product with an apple etched on the side. What they need is the love of their family and clean air and water (not the stuff in bottles at $12 a gallon, the stuff out of the tap at $0.01 a gallon).

So it’s really two problems. The first is understanding the difference between desires and needs, the second is understanding that you are not entitled to your desires, you have to work for them.

The Dream is alive. You can have whatever you work for. Generations did it before, the only difference today is that “Keeping up with the Joneses” is no longer looked down upon. Living within your means is.

The thing we lost was pursuing the American Dream. Because that pursuit made us equal. The sacrifices built our character, and taught us the difference between “price” and “value”. In at least three of my children, I was able to instill the American Dream. My youngest son works his butt off, then goes to his art gallery and produces artwork, and spends his spare time operating the gallery and selling his work. He’s working eighteen hour days and is completely self sufficient. And happier than he has ever been in his life. I am proud of all my children and their accomplishments, but my youngest just totally blows me away.

Dreams are wonderful. Making them come true is better. My dreams have come true repeatedly. Make yours happen too.

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