The American Dream - Same Phrase Different Meaning

How "The American Dream" has changed during the years.
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Picture a nicely sized house with a green lawn and a white picket fence. In this house lives a happily married couple with two healthy young children and a dog. This family has no financial worries, and they can easily take care of their basic needs with a good deal of money to spare, and some to save. Their home lies several miles from the city, in a safe suburban town. When the phrase “The American Dream” was coined, it is very possible that this was a realistic goal for immigrants and citizens alike throughout the country to achieve. Today, “The American Dream” has changed to mean something far different from what it once did. Today, it is nothing more than a glossed over lie that more and more people are unrealistically laboring towards as they are trying to meet this hopeless goal. Today, the truth is that “The American Dream” is all but impossible to achieve for most people. So what happened to “The American Dream”?


America is what happened. America has become a completely different nation since James Trunslow Adams first coined the phrase in 1931, and it has continued to change as new generations come and go. However, the changes that America has gone through over the past decades are not solely to blame for the collapse of “The American Dream”. Many things have happened in America that has caused “The American Dream” to perish, but most of it is due to the American people in general. Today, Americans and immigrants to the United States have simply raised their expectations to a ridiculous level. No longer is being happy and healthy good enough. Today, people living in America want and expect the best for themselves. They are disappointed with a simple sedan that gets them safely to and from their job each day. They want the Mercedes or the BMW instead, and it is only acceptable if their flashy and expensive car is taking them to an equally flashy and very well paying job. “The American Dream” today is not to be happy and well taken care of anymore. Instead, it is to have everything that one desires. This changing definition is one of the main reasons that “The American Dream” has faltered.


These situations that people find themselves in are often imparted by artists. In this situation I recognize the artist Eminem, who sung about a life he used to live. He lived in a trailer park and was going to make a breakthrough in hip hop, when he all of a sudden forgot what he had written down. So he made this song “Lose Yourself” to express what he felt in that moment, and I quote “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There is vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti. He is nervous, but on the surface he seems calm and ready, to drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting.” So it is not just to throw yourself upon the world, saying you are going to conquer it. You have to prepare yourself for what is coming through next door.


The other reason is strictly a financial matter. “The American Dream” was once an attainable goal if one had a job; pretty much any job. Today, the minimum wage and the actual wage vary several more dollars than they used to. Working hard and long hours at any job is simply not enough. Another reality is that the prices of goods and services today are based on a competitive market, which shows what others can and are willing to pay. The financial aspects have played a huge role in the collapse of “The American Dream”. “If you had one shot or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?” –White Rabbit


So it all comes down to this, “The American Dream” is nothing more than a sweet and promising lie that has lured millions to the United States, and it continues to lure more every day. The rising expectations of the people and the fact that living wage is much more than minimum wage have combined to sink “The American Dream”. What once was a realistic goal has become a ludicrous hope, unless of course, one hits the lottery.



BBC News Online 28 March 2011 “What is today’s American Dream?”

“Lose Yourself – Eminem”

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