An eclectic website about Women, Christianity, History, Culture
and the Arts--and anything else that comes to mind.
What Is the
We've had a lot of Italian friends over the years, mostly because
Frank speaks Italian from having spent his high school years in
Italy. So we were happy to hear that Kathy, who was in junior high
at the time, had made a new friend whose parents were from Italy.
He was a tailor, and I needed work done on a couple of pairs of
pants, so we decided to take them to him.
Instead of the joyful time of good food and good conversation that
had been our previous experience with Italians, the visit was
miserable. Most of the time we just listened to him complain. His
dream of America had been dashed, and somehow all of us were to
He was a bitter man, and he made his discontent known--to us and
to the neighbors at least two doors down. He had come to
America to get rich, and it hadn't happened.
It didn't help when we explained that we'd been born here and had
worked hard all our lives, and we weren't rich either. It didn't help
when we explained that, to us, the American dream was a dream of
freedom, self-determination, and an equal voice in our government,
an equal vote in determining the direction of the country.
He had come for money, and he felt it was his due. He did good
work, but needless to say, we never took any more clothes to him
for repair. If he railed at everybody else who came into his shop
the way he had at us, it was no wonder he hadn't succeeded.
That's the problem with the American dream. It seems to mean
whatever a person wants it to mean. In the recent recession with its
attendant foreclosures, there's been a lot of talk about the American
dream of home ownership.
I had it, too. I'd always hoped we'd own a house someday, and
finally, eleven years ago, we were able to buy one. Home
ownership had been a dream, but it wasn't an expectation--and it
certainly wasn't our due.
For some people, the American dream is not just life, but the good
life, however they happen to define that.
For others, the American dream is the freedom to do whatever they
feel called to do.
Still others see it as, not just the pursuit of happiness, but the reality
of happiness--life on the pleasure principle with money, fame, sex,
leisure--whatever they desire.
I equated it, to some extent, with the chance to get an education,
but many people seem to feel that an education is nothing more than
a passport to a good job. I saw it as the passport to an interesting,
productive, useful life, and I'm glad to say I haven't been
The American dream is different things to different people. What
does it mean to you?
Other articles in this website include the Vanishing Middle Class,
Warren Buffett and the Response to Inequity, and Equality in
I'd love to hear what you think. I hope you'll read thoughtfully and
respond by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.