The true meaning of the American dream

By: Gregory Lane

Photo by Lyric Otto
Photo by Lyric Otto

America is not the greatest country on God’s green earth. And we’re not a runner-up either. The economy is far from ideal for nearly all Americans, and plenty are without jobs or homes. Our educational system is embarrassing—its goal is to create devout workers instead of open minds, and too many are unable to graduate from high school and even college with useful life skills, if they graduate at all. Speaking of school, killings at schools are becoming regular, if not expected, tragedies. It’s become the norm for children to grow up in broken or divorced homes. The nation plummets in an ocean of debt, which stands at over $17,514,857,000,000 during the writing of this article. Oh and we can send a vastly underpaid 18-year-old to war overseas but he or she can’t buy a beer at the local bar. How did this happen, America?

I’m not going to blame the Grand Old Party, dead cowboy movie presidents, or sing about how Fox News is brainwashing the masses. And I’m definitely not pointing a finger at unchecked liberal media, environmentalists, or the Democrats.

There is this awful tendency to blame someone or something or even concepts for problems which arise from countless factors and contributors, most of which are unforeseeable. It feels like I’m watching a contest whenever I read an article online or listen to the news; who or what is going to be on the hate radar today? Will it be Obama? Bush? Feminists? Terrorists? Video Games? Movies? Aliens? The gay agenda? Gun advocates? When will we stop lobbying for a certain angle whenever something goes wrong?

It’s offensive to the victims and to the concept of empirical evidence when something like whether or not a murderer played video games is a sign of his or her violent behavior. It’s ignorant and prejudiced to wonder if a terrorist’s religious label is a primary identifier. It’s ridiculous to assume one man, even the president, in a massive government like the United States, is the sole reason for why it’s hard to find a job right now.

Yet, throughout all our failures and issues, we hold the potential for the greatest country this world has ever seen. I’m tired of hearing how the United States should be more like Europe, or how life was better in the ‘50s. The spirit of America is built upon the ability to stand on two feet and pick up those who have stumbled, not complain and whine. America has the size, the resources, the strength, and desire to carry this spirit.

We have had impressive leaders, men and women at the forefront of science, industry, the arts, justice, and discovery—Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt—America is a land of heroes and heroines, from the struggling parent raising a child, the small business owner, and the starving artists, to the men and women in D.C. and those in executive meetings for Microsoft and Google.

Each and every person here has the potential to contribute, to be a hero to someone and themselves, and I want every soul living under the red, white, and blue proud to be an American. This of course means innumerable and different things to everyone, and it is that diversity which makes the United States experiment unique and successful.

Don’t have a job? Volunteer where you’re needed. Divorced and loveless? Love those around you and love yourself. Lost everything and saw your life shatter into pieces? Pick them up, one at a time, or leave them for something new—make decisions, contribute, work, live with a purpose.

For a concept as impersonal and inflated as America, I’ve still seen nothing more representative of the human condition. We reach so high and yet suffer immensely. We suffer not without meaning, not without fighting, and not without growing—that’s the real American dream.


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