Since I didn’t grow up in the U.S., I never heard the phrase “American Dream” until I was in my 20s. And since there was no Internet in the mid-70’s, just what that phrase meant was open to speculation by a “foreigner.”
At first, it didn’t really matter to me what the American Dream meant because I wasn’t about to let my life be motivated by an idea that wasn’t my own. So I never thought about the American Dream unless I heard it used. And then I just mentally shrugged…I didn’t ask about what it meant because I had no interest in a discussion of it.
At some point, based on what I saw in various media, I decided the American Dream meant owning a home. Of course, most folks own a home and so if that is the American Dream then most folks have achieved it. That was my idea of the American Dream for decades.
But then last year I saw John Boehner on TV after he’d been named Speaker of the House. He said that he’d spent his whole life “chasing the American Dream” and now that he had been elected Speaker…his voice cracked and he choked back tears.
What? The American Dream is to be Speaker of the House, or some other high political office? I don’t think so!
It occurred to me that perhaps Boehner was like our Florida governor, who was raised in public housing. Opened a doughnut store and went on to become CEO of the largest health care company in the country, which was subsequently charged with the largest Medicare fraud in history. (Like Sgt. Shultz, he claimed “I know nothing! I know nothing!” but he was forced to resign anyway.)
So maybe that’s the American Dream: to dramatically improve your socio-economic status. As a child, you’re living in the projects but as an adult you’re living in a mansion in one of the wealthiest cities in the America. Well, I suggest that most folks in the world probably want to do that. So why call it the “American” dream? Heck, it’s the “Botswana Dream” too… (What…you have to Google “Botswana” 😉 ?)
Then, less than a year after Boehner’s tears, another version of the “American Dream” comes to my attention. Some “important” poltician who I cannot remember (because I think politicians are not important at all) says that the American Dream is to leave the country in better condition than it is now…”for our children.”
What? I have no children! I don’t care if the country (or the world for that matter) goes down the tubes after I check out. And at my age, that’s unlikely to happen so I really don’t care about anything that may happen after say, 20 years. Not my problem!
You want to sacrifice, be my guest. My experience tells me that when someone says that “we” need to sacrifice, the real message is that “you” need to sacrifice so the guy telling you to sacrifice can go on living the easy life. The idea that all will share the sacrifice equally is ludicrous.
After all this confusion about the American Dream, I decided to think it through. And it didn’t take long for me to logically deduce what most Americans dream of, which is therefore the “American Dream” in the truest sense. The American Dream is very obviously this: to win millions in the lottery. Most folks I know dream of that. Even I dream of that…. (but I don’t play the Lottery except during special drawings when “only” a million tickets are sold and so the odds are halfway decent.)
There’s no independence like millions of dollars. Enjoy your 4th dreaming the “real” American Dream.