What has the American Dream become?

15 thoughts on “What has the American Dream become?”

  1. You probably already know where we stand on this. 😉 Have we been able to live the American dream? Absolutely. But does that mean that everybody has access to it equally? We don’t think so. We highly recommend two really well researched books on the subject. First is Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich which is about the huge obstacles low-wage earners face and the extra costs they have to pay in order to just get by, let alone get ahead. The second is The Divide by Matt Taibbi, which is a really compelling case study of the huge obstacles poor people face from terrible schools that don’t let their kids get ahead, to people taking advantage of low-wage workers, to, frankly, police harassment that cost people hundreds and thousands of dollars a year for non-criminal acts. It’s all pretty heartbreaking. We love the American dream, and just wish it was available to more people, but we think that more and more it’s available to an increasingly privileged few. And the saddest thing is that, if you’re in the group that is upwardly mobile, it’s nearly impossible to see the obstacles that others face, which makes it awfully hard for us as a society to decide to fix the problems!

  2. As “Our Next Life” stated above, I think the problem nowadays is in the unbalanced opportunities.

    I am well off financially, and I’m a foreigner who moved to the US, but I don’t feel like my family and myself symbolize the “American Dream”: when we moved here, we were already doing ok from a financial perspective, and living in the US just accelerates that (higher wages, lots of ways to save money for people who actually want to do it).

    But I don’t know today if someone starting from nothing can really make it big?

  3. I think this is a good example of one of those questions that really depends on one’s own personal life experiences to truly answer (I plan on tackling this phenomenon in a subsequent posting). Personally, I have witnessed several examples of success stories in this nation – my dad being a good example. But, I’d also be kidding myself if I assumed that it wasn’t much tougher for some than for others. Clearly, it is.

    Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

  4. This is thought provoking. I’ve never really taken time to personalize the American Dream. I’ve always just accepted the traditional “house, kids, job progression” definition, but I’m going to put some thought into it now. Totally agree that it’s unique to every one.

    1. Yeah, this is a very uniquely personal question, and everybody’s experiences will ultimately dictate what their stance is on this particular issue. I can be a pessimist on a lot of things, but when it comes to this one, I tend to be pretty heavily optimistic.

  5. I think the issue with the American Dream is that many people think it is a right, and not something that you have to work for. Maybe that is why it seems unachievable. (wow – that is a really pessimistic thought for me!)

    1. I think that’s right. If people equate the American Dream to “material things” and believe that they have a “right” to the same things that their neighbor has, not only does that destroy – at least in my mind – the very notion of what the American Dream actually is, but it puts into place a cycle of “entitled expectations”, and that leads us down a road that isn’t paved too well.

      Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  6. The American dream is whatever life you create that you believe will give you the most joy and happiness. Hate kids and white picket fences but love traveling on your motorcycle and gardening… well as long as your life has those two things in it… you’ve got your American dream! Figuring out your American dream is the hardest part 🙂

  7. I do think you are right the American dream is alive. However, American society has fundamentally defined it in a materialistic sense. The white-picket fence has now become MTV cribs and if you don’t reach it you are not a “success.” My students are told that if they don’t major in a STEM field they aren’t a success. What total bollocks. I have begun showing the beginnings of Dead Poets Society to really tell students what success is. And in two previous essays I published I also tried to outline it or at least how it has come to be different. It truly means different things to different people. Unfortunately, I think the homogenous materialism has pervaded the dream. Upward mobility is no longer enough.

    1. Jason – sadly, I think that you are exactly right. A lot of people DO define the American Dream by how much one “has”, and that is really unfortunate. It keeps people wanting more and more, and satisfaction with what you do have, like you alluded to, is never enough.

  8. I do think the American Dream is going to be different for everyone, but the average view of it has changed for sure. What used to be a good job/business owner, a home, kids, married, etc.. is now something different I believe. We’re becoming a society filled with greed and the need to get everything we want as fast (or faster) than we can. Everyone wants to be famous. People want to fall back into millions of dollars without doing any work. Does anyone NOT know who the Kardashians are? That’s sad. Those are our role models today. Make a sex tape, get a TV show, get famous, get paid. So I do think the conventional thought of the American Dream might be dying, but it’s up to people like us to help redefine it and keep it alive.

    1. I like that! It is up to us to keep the definition of American Dream to what it once was – the opportunity to succeed through hard work and determination. To many of us, that definition hasn’t changed. But to others, our society certainly has thrown a wrench into this equation, turning something positive into this “thing” to be used as a means to see how much crap we can acquire over a lifetime.

      Not cool, man! 🙂

      Thanks for reading, as always.

  9. I think the American Dream is whatever you want it to be. I think life is easy in the U.S. if you are of sound body, sound mind and are willing to work. My parents left Russia in the ’80s, then moved to Costa Rica, and then finally moved to the U.S. I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen and all that jazz.

    My mom even had a small business that she sold. She started hers in the ’90s and sold it in the mid-2000s. I do think debt and living beyond peoples means keep many people in debt and away from their dreams. My parents always made sure to stay out of debt. =)

    1. I like your definition, Jaime – the American Dream SHOULD BE whatever you want it to be. It’s a perfect way to think about this. Make it exactly what you want it to be!

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