This is an essay I’ve been thinking about since I taught high school. When I was a high school teacher, most of my focus was teaching American literature. I always found this ironic because with the noticeable exceptions of Mark Twain and Langston Hughes and Edith Wharton (who isn’t taught in high schools) I don’t really like most American authors.
But when you teach high school it doesn’t matter who you like or who inspires you to be a better person, it matters who the district has decided is Important.
What is the American Dream? I have had a lot of time to lecture on this topic, so my opinions are pretty firm.
I believe the American Dream is the idea that anyone can come here from anywhere and have an equal chance at improving the status of their family. They can do better. Their children can do better than them.
I believe this system must be designed with a veil of ignorance. If you do not have any foreknowledge of who your parents will be, what can we do to design a system that actually creates equal opportunities for people?
It means not concentrating the wealth of schooling in wealthy white neighborhoods with children who are already several rungs up the ladder.
I believe that the American Dream means being able to look at my children, see that I am clearly providing enough that they will do better than me, then assessing my life and figuring out what I should pass off to other peoples children as fast as possible.
We all must rise together or we will fall.
White Supremacy is a real problem. It’s killing black people. It’s killing white people. It’s killing people of every color. It really needs to go.
Why? Because none of us are inherently superior. We just aren’t. We are all messed up, mixed up people. Even the people who are way better than me are still messed up. Why? Because we are not able to see how we impact the people around us. Because we are not able to perceive the power we genuinely have.
People under and over rate themselves constantly to the detriment of the entire planet.
How do we learn to accurately perceive ourselves then? How do we learn to see the power we have to do both good and evil while not perceiving ourselves as better than we are?
I love you. I don’t know the road yet. But I want to walk it with you.
Masculinity So Fragile. That’s a phrase I’m seeing all over the internet lately.
These terms: masculinity so fragile, white supremacy, privilege… they all enrage people. “How dare you say I have it better than I have it.”
Sweetheart. I’m not trying to say you have it good. I’m trying to say this system is hurting everyone. You included. You are being held to standards of masculinity that hurt you; that deny you the ability to be a real person instead of a caricature of a “man”. You are being taught that you have to be in “charge” or you are less than. You are being taught that you are better than other people which means you don’t understand how inter-related and inter-dependent you are with those people.
We are all being hurt.
The American Dream was once that everyone could have a house and a white picket fence and a dog and 2.5 kids.
That dream needs to die. We can’t sustain that. It’s not going to be possible for everyone. That dream mandates segregation, marginalization, and oppression. Because there is no way of getting every one to that level and we have to create gated communities to keep out the “undesireables” also known as people who were not fortunate enough to be born inside the gate.
That’s the difference between most of the people inside and outside the gate. Where they were born. (Ok, yes there would be one or two people who worked their way up.) No one has really done an in-depth character analysis on every member of the gated community to decide if they “need” protection or not.
The American Dream has to change. Or we are going to implode.
I’m not saying that all income inequality has to be banished. I literally don’t think that is possible.
But we can decide that there is a minimum basic floor of acceptable living conditions for citizens. We are truly at a place in history where we can. We just have to decide to do it. We just have to have enough of us agree on the new definition of the American Dream.
Give Your Money To Women so they can better rear their children so we can all have a country worth living in. You are going to get old. You are going to need to depend on a safety net created by the current children. IF YOU DON’T INVEST IN THEM YOU ARE STUPID AND YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU GET.
My friend Pam invests in the children in her family and in the children of her friends. She doesn’t have her own children (life is complicated) but she puts so much effort into people that she’s going to be loved until the day she dies. There will be people who will come visit her and help fill her time. Because she constantly, consciously invests in the people around her. It will pay back.
I want enlightened self interest. I want an America where we all want all of us to do better.
That means choosing to give your extra money as investments back in your community. It means choosing to see the people around you as more important to invest in than the stock market. It means looking at people and deciding the value in life comes from building connections.
Those connections have saved me and saved me and saved me.
I love you and I want to build this country together. Let’s build a new American Dream.