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JLeslie's avatar

What is the American Dream to you, and do you think it still exists?

Asked by JLeslie (61198points) March 24th, 2016 from iPhone

Please let us know what country you are from and the country you currently live in.

I’ll answer my own question later.

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20 Answers

longgone's avatar

I’m from (and in) Germany, and I don’t think it ever existed. It seems like a rather harsh way of thinking. Everyone is entirely responsible for where in life they are, no excuses? I don’t think disregarding genetics and circumstances – a person’s starting point – is fair. Disregarding simple luck is not helpful either, unless you believe in an omniscient and micro-managing God.

Coloma's avatar

The American Dream as I was raised to believe, and lived as a child/ young person was simple. Work hard, play by the rules, be a good person and everything will fall into place and you will be rewarded with financial stability and a nice retirement. Heh! No, I no longer beleive in the so called American dream, it has become the American nightmare for many since the recession wiped out many people savings, retirement investments and wreaked havoc on multiple levels for a lot of us.
The real American Dream was possible in prior decades where one could work their way up into a comfortable lifestyle that included a stay at home parent, a nice home, 2 cars in the driveway, a boat, family vacations and plenty to go around all based on one salary.

Now two incomes barely provide for many.
A steady decline since the 1970’s and now only a few few can enjoy that sort of luxury of lifestyle that used to be the norm and pretty much a given for everyone with marginal effort.
Inflation, an over priced and out of control housing market, lack of quality work opportunities with or without a college degree, The cost of health care, on and on. Nope, no more American Dream, mostly an American nightmare for scads of people.
I don;t think anyone under the age of 40–50 something believes in this fallacy anymore.

Seek's avatar

What she said. ^

stanleybmanly's avatar

Give it to the goose. The dream still exists, and the immigration situation more or less proves it. That there are worse places to live is undisputed. The REAL question is, considering our resources, why isn’t this the best place to live? And more to the point, why are so many of us entertaining dreams of some place else?

Coloma's avatar

@stanleybmanly Well, you know, the Cobblers children have no shoes. lol

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes, but the older ones have memories of days when it appeared that EVERYONE would be adequately shod. Why is it in a shop this size, with all of it’s equipment, workers and materials, there are just not enough shoes to go around?

Seek's avatar

There are plenty of shoes, it’s just that only a few people are holding the VAST majority of the shoes, and aren’t particularly concerned with whether those shoes are worn by people who are unshod. The Shoe-Keepers, jealous over their Smaug-like hoards of shoes, spend a great deal of shoes making certain that no rules about shod-foot equality are ever written and enforced.

They also spend a great deal of time convincing unshod folk that it is the fault of other unshod folk that they themselves have no shoes, and not the fault of the people who actually have far more shoes than they could ever wear.

Coloma's avatar

and then there’s Joe, slaving away for mere buttons. lol

Mimishu1995's avatar

I haven’t had a chance to know the true definition of “American Dream” of Americans, so I’m going to use the deifintion coming from my own country:

“American Dream” is a laughably exaggerated version of America, made up by anti-government and their followers, frustrated people who only see a small part of America, and possibly trolls.

America is always depicted with perfect condition like everyone has high living standard, everyone is educated, schools and hospitals are free, everyone has high moral code, blah blah blah… Although there is some truth behind the claims, everthing just sounds too good to be true. Nevertheless, a lot believe in those things, and the “American Dream” live on and continue to delude people.

My interaction with Americans here on Fluther helps me see through the American Dream. Every country has their own problem, it’s how you adapt to it that counts. What’s the point of glorifying and deludong about a country that you have never been to in the first place.

Coloma's avatar

@Mimishu1995 Schools may be free but hospitals sure aren’t. haha
I glorify Vietnam, beautiful country, rich history, terrible atrocities committed in your civil war, not much different than America, only to me, it is a land of exotic beauty, deep tradition and seems much more exciting that this hunk of geography. I must be glorifying but it’s there.

Pachy's avatar

A long, happy marriage and a secure job for life… that for me was the core of the American Dream.

Neither panned out the way I envisioned.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Coloma Yeah. I love America too. A country of open-minded people, advanced lifestyle and technology, full of diversity… I’d like to travel to America if I could too. But you know what, the thing I hate about that “American Dream” is that it is invented for the sole reason to get people to hate Vietnam and join some… er, political cults or something like that. It’s a purely political purpose and it isn’t nice. I don’t really support the government, but I think people need to install their own bullshit detector and look at things in a more objective way.

And there are also those who just like to bitch. They really need to be ignored.

JLeslie's avatar

To me the American Dream was it didn’t matter what social class you were born into you could move up. Everyone had access to education, and if someone worked hard they could achieve their goals.

The American dream was primarily about opportunity to in my opinion. Other countries, especially when our country was in it’s beginning stages, had much stricter class systems, and didn’t have the premise that all people are created equal. Not that we lived up to our equality mantra well in the past, but still
our founders wrote that down as our ideals.

Moreover, the dream had to do with a large middle class, and being able to live in a safe place, and a comfortable lifestyle. Part of it has to do with a stable economy and being able to buy on credit. I know many Latin Americans and they are fascinated at how America is full of new cars and people can buy a house with such a huge mortgage.

People still come to America for opportunity. There is no question there are still countries that provide very little opportunity to it’s average citizens. We still are a country that takes in a lot of immigration. It’s also true that in the last 50 years, more countries have equality and opportunity too.

The dream is more difficult now. It’s like a wave to me. We have times where lots of people are able to catch the wave, and then times when lots of people are drowning. I think still, for the most part, hard work pays off. However, I think we are on a trend of overworking labor, too much unemployment, and low wages. We’ve been through trends like this before.

I think needing a double income for a family is part of what hurt our lifestyle and I’m not sure if it’s the chicken or the egg? Did more and more double income families drive up some prices, because the market could bear it? Or, did high prices make it necessary for more women to work. The biggies like home prices, cars, electronics, and medical expenses stand out to me.

NerdyKeith's avatar

Well I’m not American and therefore don’t believe in an “American Dream.”. I’m from Ireland, but I also don’t have a concept of an “Irish Dream”. I suppose you might say I have a “Humanist Dream”.

The humanist dream, is a world where we all live in peaceful coexistence and the human race is united as one. It is a dream for a world without prejudice, corruption and violence or at least very little of it.

JLeslie's avatar

@NerdyKeith Even people outside of America have an idea in their head about the American Dream. In Ireland now maybe it doesn’t exist, but I bet 100 years ago when so many Irish came here they had a idea or fantasy about the opportunity here.

My SIL (from Mexico) says she grew up thinking America was so perfect, honest, fair, better for females (than her country) and it didn’t matter who you knew, but rather how hard you worked. Moving here, she was fairly disappointed that her idea of the country was not exactly what she had thought. But, she also didn’t come here poor and struggling, which I think makes a difference.

NerdyKeith's avatar

@JLeslie Well yes we used to and there is still quite a lot of Irish living in the United States. When I was younger I thought America was the greatest place on earth. Now before I continue here, I don’t want people to think I’m against America, I’m not. And I happen to be of the opinion that that vast amount of American people I’ve met over the years have been outstanding human beings.

But in my opinion before the world wide recession the reputation of America was vastly overrated. It almost seemed (even from people who are not American) that it was being portrayed as somewhat of a perfect nation or the great land of the free and opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, America being as big as it is in population and geographical mass has a lot of opportunities… for business people. But when it comes to opportunities for the working class, I’m not so sure. And if you listen to any of the interviews with Bernie Sanders, this is what he’s trying to promote. A fairer society for the working class. I’m sorry to say but America is very capatalist and I’m not a huge fan of capitalism. In my opinion business owners in the US have too much superior rights, while their employees have vastly inferior rights.

Now, I could be wrong about this. But last time I checked there is not very much union representation for the American workforce. I am also familiar with the occurrences of “at will employment”. Which I do not think is ideal in terms of job security.

And then there is that whole mess in North Carolina, which pretty much legalised discrimination against the LGBT (particular transgender persons).

Look, I’m not attacking America. Like many nations it has its good points, it has its bad points. So its not perfect and like other nations it has its issues to work on. But when it comes to this idea of an “American Dream”, I don’t believe it exists.

But at least with the “humanist dream” that is something that could exist. And be universally understood and accessible by all walks of life (no matter what nation they are from).

JLeslie's avatar

@NerdyKeith I don’t feel you are attacking at all. Don’t worry about that. As for still having a lot of Irish here in the US; well, of course! Your people didn’t return to Ireland for the most part, they stayed here and assimilated.

I mentioned my SIL from Mexico. When she told me how she grew up thinking of America being some sort of perfect paradise where life was easy and always fair, I asked her why she thought that? I’m still not completely sure if it’s from our movies? Or, just rumors among her own people in her country? I think Americans always knew you have to work hard to succeed, even in America, and all sorts of difficulties and unfairness still happen.

Now, as the world is changing, I think America is viewed less as a panacea. Especially, Western Europe and places like Australia are critical of us. But, those countries aren’t flooding into America, because they have reasonable stability within their own borders. Everything is relative.

NerdyKeith's avatar


I think the idea of America being so great from what I can remember was a combination of american television and movies. But television and film are generally more over dramatised anyway. I would say it is the same for your SIL. I think some people in Europe get these bright ideas that life in America is like an episode of Friends haha.

I think America will only improve more as time progresses. There is a lot of trouble right now with ISIS and it seems to me that westernised nations will have to united together and work together. In a tragic way, perhaps the threat of ISIS will bring American and other western nations closer together.

Seek's avatar

I loved the show “Friends”; however, even in the Clinton era, when the show began, one twenty-three year old caterer would never have been able to afford that gigantic two-bedroom apartment that close to Central Park.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek Was that the Monica character? I seem to remember she inherited the apartment?

@NerdyKeith America was the land of freedom of religion and we didn’t have royalty and that differentiated us. Now, you European countries have caught up, and surpassed in some ways.

Ironically, now, there is a lot of talk that Europe’s openness and respect for ethnic diversity has possibly created a problem. You have (from what I understand) a worse feeling of disenfranchisement among some groups than we have in America. That’s what I hear, I don’t know exactly how it really is. From what I understand Ireland, and other European countries, still have public schools (government money) run by the religions. Considering Ireland has had some big conflicts religiously, that makes even less sense to me there. I also think America has many many years experience with immigration, and although we are way far from perfect, I think other countries can be naive about it. That’s getting a little off topic though. I just find it interesting to know how we are viewed, the reality, and how it is relative to the country the person is from.

My Scottish BIL once said, more asked, during a conversation with his mom, husband, my sister and me, something along the lines of America wasn’t like this before, that previously we weren’t concerned where people were from. My sister and I both said together, “yes we were.” He was surprised. At the time he had been in the states about 8 years. We aren’t “concerned” but we always are interested, or ask, or know, where people and their families are from in our more diverse cities. In some parts of the country there is an absence of it, and it’s weird to me.

Regarding my SIL, the difference between her and other people outside of America, is she was here a lot. That’s why I’m even more surprised by her surprise. It would be like a Brit being surprised what life in France is like, even though they travelled and spent a lot of time across the channel growing up.

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