The American Dream, Visited…

One hears that phrase a lot, ‘the American Dream’, during the current financial crisis, usually by some pundit or expert on something or other noting that millions of people can no longer hope to achieve the American Dream.

So… anybody care to comment and explain just what the American Dream is? Or what you think it is? Or isn’t? And does it matter?


4 Responses

  1. My great uncle lived it. I was fond of him, since he was the one who taught me to play poker when I was in grade school. He was Canadian, but in the early 20’s, he moved to Chicago. Did the Horatio Alger thing. Hocked his overcoat to buy medical books. Ate his one meal of the day in a speakeasy – a nickel for a liter of beer and all he could eat from the lunch bar. He became a successful bone surgeon in Michigan, with a nice place on the lake, three kids and quite a few grandchildren. After he retired, he and his wife lived long enough to take several around the world cruises.

    I was young when I knew him, so I can’t know for sure if he was happy. My mother said he was well respected in his field, and I remember him seeming *satisfied.* I never heard him complain the way so many older people do.

    I think the American dream has to do with believing that with hard work and sacrifice, you can (1) Make a better life (or is it a “decent” life?”) for your children, and/or (2) “make something of yourself,” whatever that means.

    All the studies show you don’t need world cruises or a place on the lake to be happy. You do need health, freedom from want, and social connections as pre-requisites. I suspect it’s still easier to find that than in my uncle’s pre-labor union, pre-health care, pre-paid vacation, and pension days. But what you need beyond the basics??

    I think you hit the nail on the head by asking what “the American Dream” means. Maybe it hasn’t gone away so much as it’s being re-imagined by nearly everyone.


  2. “The American Dream” is often used in conjunction with the phrase “equal opportunity”, in the sense that all Americans supposedly, because of their freedoms, have equal access to the means to rise to great heights in their life. So they dream that they too can be a pillar of their community, a wealthy businessman or woman, the President of the United States, or whatever it is they aspire to.

    Supposedly when we are born (or emigrate) here, we stand on the same level playing field as everyone else, and if we don’t succeed we have only ourselves to blame.

    Unfortunately, it’s not true. A black kid born to a crack mother in East Harlem has far less opportunity than a white one born to a wealthy doctor in New Rochelle.

    But I guess that’s why they call it a dream.


    • When does a “dream” cease being a “dream” and become a “delusion?” How many of us are dreamers, and how many are deluded?


      • Depends on your religion…


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