Opinion: The American Dream today: Is it alive? Is it awake?
Tahoe Expedition Academy, 11th grade ELA class
Once upon a time America had a dream — a dream of freedom, of opportunity, of prosperity, of diversity. Is the dream still alive today? Are we too asleep to dream? Many think the younger generation is too consumed by social media and virtual reality to care about what’s really going on, or about what could happen in the future. Does the American Dream still mean anything to us?
Unfortunately, the American Dream is struggling because as the Dream has entered the “waking” world, it has been limited and distorted by government and society. Ideally, government is a pathway for the realization and expression of the Dream, but in a world where government is not meeting the needs of the people, and diversity and equality are threatened rather than promoted, government seems to be more an obstacle than an aid.
Within the first 100 days of the new presidency, America has been plunged into political chaos. Arts and culture have been harshly discouraged and disparaged, and the spread of information via the free press, of which America proudly boasts, has been all but extinguished. From the rollback of numerous environmental protection policies to the appointment of grossly unqualified cabinet members, the Dream has been threatened and unrest has reverberated through the American people.
As the government promotes racial and ethnic intolerance, hate crimes have become far too common. And government isn’t the only problem: corporatism, consumerism, and advertising in a world plagued with technology often just for technology’s sake have worked to turn the capitalist dream into a nightmare of economic devastation for the people and the environment. Our society and its Dream have been deeply corrupted with the idea of unrestrained material wealth.
The American Dream has been seriously threatened by a society unwilling to accept and appreciate differences, but hope remains. The ideals of freedom and opportunity have been expressed in the active participation of citizens in their local and state governments — in town hall meetings and social action groups across the nation.
When the American Dream is threatened as it is now, people rise up in the name of that Dream to protect the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Throughout history, leaps and bounds have been made in the name of equality and justice because of the power and inspiration of the American Dream.
Seeing hate and discord inspires the populous to make decisions in their lives that combat the destruction they see around them. This is the element of the American Dream that we as the next generation must preserve if we hope to make a society in which the Dream can reach its full potential.
Although there’s a general perception that this generation is indifferent to the problems and the issues affecting our world, we are awake to the American Dream. It may appear that we are self-absorbed and overly immersed in social media, but as we have seen in the wake of the recent political turmoil, our generation is well connected (in part thanks to said social media) and unified in our core beliefs. Although we may have different political ideologies, we are united in our commitment to the American Dream and in acting to make it a reality.
Unfortunately, we aren’t currently in a position to make the important decisions regarding our future, but we as a generation can make our voice heard and can alert the people in power to the changes we believe are necessary. It is because of our nation’s past that we, as a generation, have the ability and opportunity to express our opinion today, but it is because of who we are and what we do today that the future will become a reality.
The well-being of humanity is seriously threatened; we must adjust our ideas of the “ideal” life to fit the needs of the earth and to all its inhabitants. We are the next generation, and our voice must join with the voices of the generations now in power and with those of generations yet to come to reassert the American Dream and make it a waking reality.