Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The American Dream

I keep seeing things like this article, claiming that the American Dream is in its death throes for those in my generation.

But when you read the article, it becomes clear that what they are defining as The American Dream is getting a good job and becoming a millionaire.

They got it wrong!

Traditionally, the American Dream was to have a family and own a house for them to live in--not a giant house, just a moderate house big enough for the family with a little yard.

And that dream is still within reach of people. What's not realistic is for a whole generation to become single millionaires with no obligations at all, or for them to work in their dream jobs for their whole lives without any break.

But that's the wrong dream anyway. It was never realistic for an entire generation to become millionaires. And living without family and without obligation is not actually going to make anyone happy. It will just make them old and lonely, selfish and egotistical, disconnected and drifting. The thing they define as The American Dream was just a set-up anyway: a setup for disappointment, for loneliness, for a long unresolvable midlife crisis as everyone discovers too late that what they should have done was spend less time working and more time building a family (which is one of the few things we really do have a biological deadline on).

Notice that God never said "Chase your dreams".  God never said, "Get a good career and work your way up the ladder."  God never said, "Earn a million dollars and live 'the life.'" And if God wants us to be happy, and He's given us a roadmap for happiness, and He left those things off, then apparently none of those things will get us there, despite how appealing they seem when we're young, and despite how much our culture has pushed the selfish way (because really all those things are about ME--my dreams, my career at all costs, my success, my money, my plans--and I guess focusing on  ME is, ironically, not the way to make me happy).

The American Dream, the way it used to be, is not dead. There are still opportunities for people to find love, build a family, have a steady career (even if it's not your dream work), buy a modest house to live out your life in. And that kind of dream is worth pursuing, and it is more in keeping with the guidelines God has given us--family, work (but reasonably, to stay alive and stable--not compulsively, to do nothing else but get money), stability and participation in a community all are included in that old American Dream. It's not a flashy dream. It's not something that will make you more special than someone else. It doesn't follow the new definition of "Success," but it encompasses the things we need to be successful at in order to be happy. (Hint: none of those includes having a lot of money).

That other American Dream? RIP and good riddance. It wasn't a good dream anyway, even if it looked like it should be.

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