Saturday, May 23, 2009

The American Dream, Is It Gone?

I have been reading the NY Times again.

Yes, I wrote a comment on that one. I wasn't going to but after reading some of the get over it and pull yourself up types of comments I could not help myself.
Here is an extended comment on the blog.

As a child I lived in a box car and a cleaned out chicken house, more like a large coop. I lived in a cloud of coal dust. (Don't get me wrong. I was certainly happy but I was a child.) Because of opportunity and hope life improved. My parents worked hard to not only survive but help their kids seek a better life as their parents did for them.

My grandparents saw their kids lives improve. My parents saw their kids lives improve. They were able to give us a chance because there was opportunity. Even though we had little I was taught to share with those who had less perhaps allowing more to share the opportunities. Now my siblings and I are concerned about our adult children and their children. The opportunities to dream what I call the “log cabin dream” are at best limited.

Yes, we need to rethink. Yes, I am sorry to say, there are many in the world in much worse shape. I heard the phrase about starving children who would love to have that meal I didn't like or want but it didn't make me want to eat it.

This family is feeling guilty because even though we tried to plan and save and use little credit, our son's opportunities are few. Sometimes he just wants to give up. Telling him to “suck-it-up and move on” is not going to help. What we do tell him is learn from this mess and let us think about how to improve, not just his lot, but help others improve theirs.

We know it won't be easy but we must try.

However, there are many in our extended family that have no hope. They do live the day to day. They didn't buy SUV's, they couldn't. They didn't all buy houses with any kind of mortgage they couldn't . The jobs they have pay less or cut their hours. They did know better than some of the deals offered but now they can't even pay the rent and the bills. There are times food is scarce so the family shares.

It is hard to watch children going backwards. It is hard to see kids you know with little to eat. It is hard to see them eat starches to stretch the dollars they do have. You know it is unhealthy but what do they do?

I remember the TV show The Waltons. How happy they were and how well they pooled their resources but once you have lived with more it is hard to admit defeat and move back home. Does it matter whether you were seduced by the Consume and Use Credit culture or not? It is hard to give up independence and the feeling you were getting ahead.

Is what makes humans different than other animals the knowledge of a future? If there is no future, why shouldn't people just sit down and quit.

Americans need hope and opportunity to improve. It has been built into us. James T. Adams wrote a book about this very history, The Epic of America(1933). He wrote about the American Dream as opportunity for all to be “all that they can be”without regard to their beginnings.

Of course the American Dream is not just about what we can buy but for many years now many of our younger people have been convinced it is. So now what do they do? Didn't we have a President tell us after 9/11 to go shopping? They have consumed and tasted that version of the American Dream. Now they are in trouble, now they must try to go home, literally. (if they have someone, a home. Many don't.)

So let those of us, who can hang-on, not judge those who feel they cannot. For whatever reason they are in trouble, they need opportunities not criticism.

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