Have you ever wondered what the American Dream represents? What does it mean? Have you really thought about it? I’m sure it’s something you don’t think about on a daily basis. We all have an opinion about the American Dream. We’re probably not aware of it, at least not on a conscious level. However, somewhere deep in our subconscious the American Dream and all of the images that represent it can be found.
There are those out there trying to find a way into our subconscious in order to use the American Dream to their advantage. It goes on all the time, and it’s a really big deal. If you start to pay attention, you will notice that the American Dream is discussed a lot in our news coverage, in our media, in our entertainment and especially in our politics. Whoever can define the American Dream—its origins and purpose – will ultimately control the future of our society and our nation. The battle for who defines the American Dream is ongoing. And you will hear a great deal about it as the new political campaign cycle begins.
This past weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, Presidential candidate, former Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, said this: “We need to restore American confidence, American optimism, and America’s hope for the future. We need to restore the American Dream by restoring American common sense.” It seems that these days everybody wants to restore the American Dream. What ever that means is anybody's guess.
Can we make sense of the American Dream? Historian, James Truslow Adams, popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book, Epic of America. Adams summarized the American Dream in this way “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Somewhere along the way there has been a calculated and a deliberate effort to redefine and hijack the American Dream. Who benefits and profits, and what are their motives? Is the American Dream today more about consumerism, materialism and wealth rather than patriotism, freedom, justice, and liberty? Has our media and our mass media culture decided for us what they think the American Dream is? is it nothing more than selling jeans or automobiles. Does evoking the phrase, American Dream, enable politicians to gain power and control over people who are trying to achieve the mythical American Dream?