I’ve heard many definitions of the American Dream over the years. More often than not it is about a wife, a car, a house, and a fine job to pay for it all. For me, those things aren’t the dream, but rather the products of that dream.
The term comes from comes from historian James Truslow Adams who wrote in 1931 that it was “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” A nation in which the only thing standing in your way is you. If that’s the American Dream, no wonder the left hate it so much. It stands against everything they believe in. The left uses verbiage similar of course, you’ve heard Marx, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. Notice the subtle but vital difference? The American dream is “for each” and the socialist dream is “from each”. It’s the difference between a system that gives and a system that takes. American can fill your wants, the socialist country only even attempts the need and fails at that.
The American Dream in my opinion is not to be defined in material possessions. It’s hope. It’s a prayer to the future and the hope that the future can bring what you want it to bring.
Not by magic or faith or chance, but by hard work and effort. It’s the American Dream because it is in America that people have been able to work upon their dreams with the greatest freedom and therefore have the greatest chance for success.
The American Dream cannot thrive under socialism. It is inseparable with the individualism that has marked Americans. It’s often referred to as “Rugged Individualism”. That’s a term I very much like. It’s heroic. I picture the man or woman with goal in mind, faced with difficult odds and a hard road ahead, they push on.
Europe has centuries of shared history, culture and art. America came about recently and created its own identity. Much of that centered around the concepts and ideas that forged our founding. That was the colonial attitude and ideas on liberty. Colonials are men and women away from the homeland on the frontier. They are brave souls risking it. Is it any wonder Americans turned out to be such a rough scrabble lot of people?
And here we made a life for ourselves and the homeland took too much. We didn’t mind helping out queen and country but we realized that it was us that was doing all the work and taking all the risks while those in England took more than their share of the wealth. Some tea went into a harbor, some shots were fired, and a new nation was born. We took the things we didn’t like about King George and the system under which we had been laboring and created our own system, one “conceived in liberty”. Liberty became our culture, facing the frontier became our culture. This allowed us to do great things. There has objectively been no more prosperous nation on the face of the earth than America.
If the American Dream is fading it’s because the people are drifting away from it. The country isn’t failing them. They are failing themselves. They are failing to use the chances given to them. They are buying into the words of those who say it can’t be done. It can be done. It is being done. Every single day someone, somewhere, grabs hold of the dream.
The American dream is a prayer to the future and if we don’t guard our liberty, our culture, or society, and our Constitutional form of government that dream will turn into a nightmare. We cannot do, no nation could ever do, what America has done under any other than a free and capitalistic system.
To have an American Dream one must be free to dream.
Think of a system in which you don’t get to pick the course of your life. That was the case with communist USSR. You were told what you would do. That was the life you lived regardless of how you felt or what you thought you should be doing. Or think of a system in which you get to pick what to do but the government controls what you do with the outcome. That’s socialism.
Another thing the left always gets wrong (along with thinking the American Dream is about materialism) is that Rugged Individualism excludes cooperation or a social order. It most certainly doesn’t. The Individualism aspect of the term simply means that the person doing the thing pushes themselves forward, shows courage, strength, willpower, and sometimes genius in the furtherance of their goal. That there might be 100 individuals working on that goal doesn’t take away from the ruggedness of each person doing it.
Take the pioneers for example. Especially those who made their way westward some of them pushing only handcarts. Yes, handcarts. Even those with wagons had to have a certain sense of self just to push on another day. There were the mountain men and the 49’ers who left their families in the hopes of finding gold. The inventors, the industrialists, the discovering scientists and doctors. These people wanted a better life and were willing to do the nearly impossible to see it happen. That’s the American Dream working as a motivator toward action. They weren’t going west for a new house, a new wagon, or the gold itself. They went so they could be free to direct their own lives away from those who would prevent them. These are the kind of people who pray to God that the mountain in their path be moved but still bring along the shovels so they can get started while they wait.