It meant certain things that everybody just sort of knew, without really thinking about it. There was the history of the colonies, the Revolutionary War, pioneers, and all kinds of American stuff. But nowadays, we don`t hear much about living the American Dream, unless it`s in relation to the problem of illegal immigrants.
So what does it mean? I guess the way I thought of it was that people who had nothing but an idea, the desire to work, and a sense of honor, could come here and build themselves up into greatness rivaling the European aristocracy. It meant that the common man could become uncommon---a great person---simply by exerting themselves and doing the right thing.
Is that what it still means? Is that what it means to you? I get the feeling that the American Dream, nowadays has more to do with getting a corporate job, making a 6-figure salary, having a fantastic credit rating, and living well beyond one`s means.
Has the American Dream changed to mean working for a corporation? Some would say that in the `50s (also a century ago), following WWII, many of the men who came home only wanted some peace and quiet. They created the suburban retreat, with watering lawns, barbeques, 2.5 kids, and a car in every garage. They just wanted a nice and pleasant life.
To bring all that about, though, meant often working one place for an entire career. The giant corporations came into play after the war, and the so-called military-industrial complex. We`d geared up during the war with all sorts of technical and machine manufacturing, so plenty of people had jobs in those corporations. And of course the auto industry was starting to take off.
And here we are, with a global ecomony on our doorstep. We have those same corporations shifting labor all around the world, not just the country. We have outsourcing, downsizing, too much consumer debt, the housing crunch, dot.com bust, economic bubbles bursting, and the threat of a North American Alliance.
Is that part of the American Dream? What about the age-old entrepreneurial spirit? What about the cottage industry, the hearty pioneers, and the "go west young man?" Does that connect with iPods and headsets, text-messaging, computer games, and $150 recreational footwear?