OPINION SERIES: The American dream is not equal for all

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This is part of a series of opinions various Viewpoints staff members have on the American dream. Read the first one here.

By Sean Ryan

The American Dream is the idea that everyone in America has an equal opportunity to achieve their goals and ambitions. 

It’s almost a “sky’s the limit” type of ideology. It is a promise from our government that we can prosper in whichever direction we see fit through our constitutional freedom.

I grew up a witness to the American Dream. My mother and her family came to the United States from Mexico with that same promise that they could be, and have, whatever they wanted because it was America. My family worked hard and took every opportunity to create their version of the so-called American Dream.

Times have changed, though. We are no longer living in that 1950s puerile fantasy of America.

In the last 20 years, we have been through two wars, a housing market crash and an economic recession. The average inflation rate of the dollar is 4.7%, and it has increasingly become harder to live in this country.

My mother and father were eventually laid off from their factory jobs because those companies decided it would be financially advantageous to move to another country for cheaper labor. My uncle struggled to maintain the restaurant for which he had worked so hard.

For many Americans, owning a business is part of the American Dream. Since COVID-19, small and family-owned businesses have taken a major hit. At the same time, corporate institutions flourished and profited from the economic crash of the middle class.

So, what does the American Dream mean in today’s society?

Is it finding any full-time job available and working there for 20 years in hopes that one might get thrown a bone with a promotion? Is the dream to own a big house with a white picket fence, two cars, pets, a spouse and kids?

After completing high school, I followed this old model of society’s American Dream. I went straight into the workforce and worked 50 to 60 hours a week on the night shift. I put higher education, ambitions and life goals on the back burner. In my mind, I had this image that those things were only for the dreamers.

For years I was stuck on this road, from one dead-end job after another with no actual career in sight and no ambition. I was living on autopilot while the corporate world killed the incentive of people like me.

Don’t get me wrong. There is honor and dignity to be had when you work hard and put in the hours at a job, no matter what it is, providing for yourself and or family.

People should try to chase down their dreams if possible. They should find ways to generate their own wealth, travel the world until they’re 30 and then decide to become something. Whatever it is, people should be who they want to be and do what they truly want to do. Don’t settle.

Remember that there is an end to all this at some point. Life is too short to be going through it like a zombie living in the matrix.

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