Defining The American Dream

One of my favorite Postsecrets in recent months was this one:

I think at first I thought it was beautiful because it seemed to be an alternative take on the American Dream. And because I am so 100% in favor of gay marriage and gay rights, of course. The fact that someone has to leave the country they love to be with the person they love just because their country won’t let them officially love that person is SUCH bullshit. Homosexuality is not what’s ruining the institution of marriage. But that’s another topic for another time.

In my head, the American Dream has always been working hard, becoming successful, making money, and living the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. But the alternative aspect here (being able to love who you want and have that love recognized) seemed to have nothing to do with the “American Dream” in the way I’d always thought about it.

So, then I started thinking about what my “alternative” American Dreams are. Because being successful just so I can make money isn’t really a dream of mine, to be honest. From this train of thought, I went to Wiki to see what info it had on the subject. When thinking alternatively, I like to start from square one.

It turns out that the American dream in this Postsecret isn’t really that alternative at all.

According to James Truslow Adams who coined the phrase (via Wikipedia):

“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

“The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

Epic of America. I am SO interested in getting my hands on this book now.

Apparently wanting to marry your partner isn’t so alternative. Let’s pull out some phrases here:

“…life should be better and richer and fuller for every man…”

“It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are…”

“The American Dream…has not been a dream of material plenty…”

“It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

Love makes your life better, richer, and fuller. You should be able to be recognized as an GLBT person and be able to achieve everything you are capable of or want to be, regardless of the fact that some may disagree with your lifestyle. The American Dream is not entirely based in acquiring material wealth. It’s all kinds of personal realization. The last part is my favorite. The American Dream is to break down previous barriers and social orders which limited individuals and cease the way of thought which determines that people can be categorized/systemized and understood via the creation of artificial classes and structures. GLBT people are not a different class or type. They just have a set of preferences which is considered alternative to the sexual norm of America. It’s really not THAT alternative. They’re just people. Sexual orientation has as little to do with a person’s quality as race or gender or religion or income or anything like that does.

Thanks to Postsecret and Wikipedia, what I now get out of the American Dream is that it’s the uninhibited maximization of potential for every single citizen that let’s them aspire to whatever their personal goals, interests, and desires may be. It’s ultimate freedom. Not monetary gain. It includes monetary gain but does not exclusively dictate that goal.

I now realize that I have an American Dream too. My American Dream is that I will be able to enable the American Dreams of others. My dream is community organizing and preserving the environment to protect disadvantaged people and helping to create a global cooperation and understanding using American power and influence (which is currently waning because a lot of us are assholes) and helping people be who they want to be and have what they deserve to have. Monetary gain has nothing to do with any of that. This country (in theory) lets me achieve what I want to achieve. And it should do that for everyone too as long as their American Dreams don’t encroach on the dreams and rights of other Americans.

And now I’m curious about what other people’s American Dreams are. What do you hope to be and attain, given the supposedly (almost) limitless freedom of our founding ideals?

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