The American Dream. Rags-to-riches. Anyone can “make it” if they just try really hard.
But what does it mean to “make it?” Own a home? Have a family? Take a vacation?
Perhaps the wealth gap and other inequalities are lost on so many people because when we hear 20% of the country own 80% of the wealth, we think way down deep in our hearts: I want to do that. Or at the very least, we are sure that we CAN do it. We deserve it.
The American Dream! Be whatever you want to be and earn lots of money while doing it! Or just earn lots of money!
So many of us covet what wealthy Americans have. Instead of thinking 4 cars for 2 people is excessive, we think: I could drive a convertible when it’s hot out and an SUV when it snows. Secretly or not so secretly we yell: That sounds awesome!
I think most Americans believe that more money in our bank account would equal less problems in our lives. We’ve been lead to believe that money is the most common cause of divorce (although studies don’t necessarily hold up). Scott and I joke all the time about what great trust-fund babies we would be. No work. No worries. Endless opportunities.
And when Americans aren’t coveting the wealthy, we are emulating them. Fake designer bags. Living off credit cards. Working 2 jobs so our kids can attend an elite private school.
The America I believe in gives equal opportunity without guaranteeing equal outcomes. But what are these opportunities leading to? Full bank accounts? More clothing? Homes? Comfort? Is the American Dream just having the basics to live or is it having more than we need?
Where is the part of the American Dream about helping others? Giving back? Is there a dream about living simply and being humble in this country? If we are lucky enough to debate between a beach home and donating to church or the local homeless shelter, the beach home seems to win out in every home. Even in my own head it’s hard to not justify getting my children just one more toy. Or one more book. Books are important! That’s why we own 100s, right?
Sometimes I wonder what I’m hoping to accomplish in fighting for the America I believe in. I fight and continue to live a life of hope and hypocrisy, not knowing what I deserve and what I should give back, not knowing if I’m living America’s dream or my own.
So I ask: What is the American Dream to you?