Monday April 21, 2014
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Not long ago we discussed a 16 year old rich kid who killed four people and injured many others while driving drunk and got off on an "affuenza" defense. We've put that issue behind us, but something said at the time troubled me and I have been waiting to bring it up.
Here it is:
A TV anchor, whose name is unimportant, interviewed the person who coined the term "affuenza" in a PBS documentary, asking him about the phrase. Here is what he said:
“I think most Americans have it to one degree or another. You can’t help it, living in a society that tells you that the American Dream is to get as wealthy as you can, make as much as you can, and blind yourself to consequences."
I should add in all fairness to him that the person who said that was not particularly happy about the way things are today.
The phrase "the American dream" originated in the head of historian James Truslow Adams in 1931. He said it this way:
" But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement."
Later, he wrote:
"The American dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class."
That sounds good to me.
And yet, whenever I hear a TV anchor or a politician referring to "the American Dream" it always comes out sounding like this:
"Ah yes, the American Dream, getting a good education and a high paying job so you can afford a nice home, a good car, clothes, all the other things you want, along with an early retirement so you can enjoy it all."
I just recently heard words like that from someone whose name you know well, but I won't mention it. I wondered, "Is that it? Is that what we have become? A nation of yuppies?"
So I looked around, worried about what I would find. I discovered that just three years ago in 2010, a look was taken at THIRTY YEARS of public opinion polls, beginning in the 1980's.
In EVERY ONE OF THOSE POLLS a majority of us consistently said that The American Dream is more than a search for material things; it is about what the declaration of Independence meant when it said "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" — in simple terms: Equality of opportunity.
The Question Is....
Why come those who control what we hear, and those we ask to represent us, don't know how we feel about America?
Maybe I asked the wrong question. Maybe it is that they don't KNOW how we feel about America. Could it be that they want to change how we feel?
Back in the day, starting out, the goal was to move ahead. Each step was meant to better your situation for family or oneself. In my mind, you have to work hard to move forward and be able to enjoy the fruits of that life when retirement hits. If you don't, what are you left with at retirement, an inheritance, food stamps, minimum wage jobs? The younger folks don't get it. There's not enough to go around and those who have worked hard are going to fight giving up what they've worked hard to attain. So if the media, politicians, government are trying to change our belief in the American Dream I think they'll have a heck of a time convincing the boomers.
Today, one needs to fight for opportunity by being better equipped to do the job than the next guy. It's not the same out there and the road is more difficult but you still need to strive to achieve your Dream, whatever that is. Someone else shouldn't be responsible for providing it to you.
Tom, the American Dream is knowing that you have the opportunity to better oneself if one works at it. Remember there are some countries where people do not have that opportunity. People came from Europe with the hope of finding a better life here and most did through hard work.
Granted for some, bettering oneself and fulfilling their dreams means accumulating as much as you possibly can, in any way possible, and holding it close to oneself. To others it means getting enough to meet one's needs and not worrying about the wants. For example, I need warm place (possibly cool in the summer) to live. Do I need 7,500 sq. ft house in order to fullfill this need or dream? I need a car to get to work. However, do I need a Lincoln Continental in order to get to work? I need food in order to live. Do I need caviar, the finest champagne, week ends on the Riviera, etc.?
Some people, and occasionally all people, have a hard time distinguishing between wants and needs.
I guess I have gotten off the track. To me, the American Dream is about opportunity. What you do with the opportunity determines how you will live, and not the station to which you were born.
Have you read Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer's memoir?
Here are some interesting facts about the current wave of world immigrants to the United States and their quality of life.>
Susan, you and Bernice have got it exactly right, haven't you?
The American Dream is one of opportunity. And as Susan said, if you don't take advantage of that opportunity you may end up wishing you had. But what it ISN'T is greed, and that's what some people are peddling.
You know what it looks like? It looks like they are dangling impossible dreams in front of people to excuse what they have done themselves, namely selling their honor for a few bucks.
And Bernice, you make a food point about how much we need. We are incredibly well off compared to what we were just a couple of decades ago. I haven't read that memoir, by the way. If you have the time, perhaps you can tell us more.
Don, thanks for the link. I do not go to social networking sites so I haven't read it, but maybe you — or someone else? — could enlighten us. Would be appreciated.
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