What is the American Dream?

I’d like to interrupt this regularly scheduled week to ask a simple question.

What is the American Dream?

The question struck me yesterday, as I heard a soundbite on the news of someone who has not been part of the recovery post-Recession.

His take was that he was going to “push” his son into fields and industries that were safer and less “creative.”

After hearing this, I thought this is a problem. If creative people are encouraged and lead to become employees that just check boxes, we’re leaving a lot on the table.

But this also led me to another thought. We live in a country where we’re free to pursue our goals, hopes, and dreams. Why shouldn’t his creative son attempt to be what he wants?

Because, in a word, conditioning.

Many of us have been conditioned to thinking that the only way to achieve the “American Dream” is to buy a bigger house with a two car garage, along with two cars, and enough stuff so we can’t fit either of those cars in said garages. And don’t forget the white picket fence.

Now this symbolizes a family that has “made it.” They’ve been able to work hard and earn enough to enjoy this lifestyle.

But wait…

Back in the 50s, a single factory worker could support a family of four or more, buy a house in a nice area, and lead a comfortable life.

This is gone.

What also struck me is how this narrative, if you really peel it back, is one based less on any type of ‘dream’ and more on consumerism.

Buy. More. Stuff.

Is this why there are so many people that have a pessimistic outlook on our country today? Because they can’t buy a place in a slightly better zip code or have a fence with a few more pickets?

To be clear, I’m not dismissing for one second the people that live in poverty and scrape to get by. This is not the segment that I’m addressing. I’m talking about those that have lost sight of what it actually means to live the American Dream, instead deciding that more stuff is the answer.

To me, it’s about pursuit of what we choose within a framework. It’s not about buying crap. We as a country have too much crap to begin with.

The Founders of our country established it so there could be a place that we could enjoy several freedoms. Not one of those listed is freedom of shopping.

Let’s reset what it means to live the American Dream.

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