The American Dream: A 21st Century Illusion?

White picket fence: a staple of the American dream

“What’s Right with America is the willingness to discuss what’s wrong with America.” –Harry C. Bauer

When I was younger I remember how people in my immediate setting would talk about America as the great hub of opportunity.  If you had dreams, this was the country to make them happen.  Nothing was off limits and your reality was as big as you could dream. 

However, America has changed.  It’s not the same place anymore; it’s done some growing up, faced some pretty difficult times and is now at a standstill, wondering which direction to take. 

 The Backbone of the American Fabric

 The backbone of the American fabric is one founded on hard work, self-reliance and a determination to succeed.  Immigrants today want for their families’ security, peace of mind and financial freedom, similar to the pursuit of happiness the pioneers of this country sought. 

 The America I grew up in was the place where you could make these dreams come true without political fear, without religious discrimination or a dependency on connections to get you through the door.  If you have the drive to work hard, have some talent there is potential for very huge success, or at least there used to be at some point. 

 What Defines the American Dream?

Over the decades, the American Dream has evolved.  While the image of a home and white picket fence is a staple, the material aspect of this dream exploded.  Not only were Americans aiming for a home in the suburbs, but they wanted the biggest house on the block.  Owning a home wasn’t enough but designer labels became a necessity.

Designer shoes, handbags and the latest gadgets became the name of the game.  There was this lure of being the newest and freshest, the most often.  This shifted how most Americans lived their lives.  Living beyond ones means became normal and even acceptable.

Of course, it’s nice to have beautiful things.  However, when you start losing the meaning to your life, beautiful things become toxic.  This type of lifestyle is not sustainable, and has proven fallible with the onset of the Great Recession (which, by the way, is not over).  People continue to lose their homes, deal with debt, bad credit and starting over from scratch.  This kind of hardship can either make or break a person, many people are now trying hard to choose.     

It’s a major reality check when you can no longer keep up with the lifestyle you create for yourself, and you are forced to revert to the basics. 

Does this Dream still Exist?

My answer is yes, it still does exist.  People around the globe are still cheering for America to get through its tough time.  If you can make it now, when things are tough and you can find the strength to move forward, there are definitely brighter days waiting for you.  This hope that things do eventually get better because I live in a coutry where I can control my circumstances, is a very real part of my American Dream.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Timothy Tolle