Why the American Dream is Unachievable for All

The American Dream is something everyone is supposed to be able to achieve, right?

According to the Merriam-Webster’s School Dictionary, the definition of the American Dream is, “an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity.” In other words, the American Dream is having equality and lots of ”riches” such as cars and homes. I believe that the American Dream is unrealistic and unachievable for all people. 

The American society sets standards for what the perfect person or family should look like. A good job, two kids, a mom and a dad, nice home, a car. That sort of thing. When a person can’t achieve what everyone says is the ideal lifestyle, it can make them unhappy and feel as though they aren’t good enough. An article from time.com-Why The American Dream Is Making You Unhappy says, “The American Dream has become the mass production of unrealistic expectations. The constant thrum of the “you can be anything you want to be” mantra has created a low level sense of inadequacy and anxiety in American life, where anything short of greatness can start to feel like failure.” A person should be able to live their life without their society breathing down their back telling them what they should be or how they should live.

Egalitarianism—”a belief in human equality especially in social, political, and economic affairs.” Maybe the American Dream would be more attainable for all people if America was based on the idea of egalitarianism. America is a hierarchical society. We have upper, middle, and lower class rankings based on a person’s income. According to the article, Aid Isn’t Enough by Sandra Y.L. Korn, “approximately 45.6 percent of Harvard undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000, placing them in the top 3.8 percent of American households.” It also says, “Harvard undoubtedly accepts more upper-class students than working-class students simply because it receives many more “strong” applications from students who have attended private schools or well-funded public schools than those who have not.” So, are your mental capabilities based on how much you can pay to get into a school? Why should income matter when a person has the abilities to succeed academically? 

Nytimes.com-The Transformation of the American Dream, says, “He [Martin Luther King Jr.] said he dreamed of the disappearance of prejudice and a rise in community spirit, and certainly made no mention of deregulation or mortgage subsidies.” The American Dream should reflect more of what MLK was saying. He didn’t mention things such as a nice home or car, but instead he wanted less prejudice and communities that helped the people in it. In Francis Scott Key’s words, America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. It isn’t all that, though. Not all people are truly free. There is so much discrimination when it comes to gender, race, sexual orientation, and social standings. A community spirit—accepting, loving, inclusive, and helpful for the community. Same thing when it comes to undocumented immigrants. Although it is not a true story, Without Inspection by Edwidge Danticat paints a very good picture in the minds of its readers. This short story is about a man who is an undocumented immigrant in America. He was abandoned at sea and had to swim ashore. A lady on the beach took him to a shelter where there were others “like him.” If the lady had not taken him from the beach right away, the police would have most likely sent him back to Haiti. People come to America looking for the American Dream but just get kicked out. How are we the land of opportunity if people aren’t given a fair chance?

Forget the American Dream. Forget what people say about everyone having a chance to be the next president. Forget being told that you could be the next millionaire. Not everyone has the same chance. That needs to change. It can change, but not if we keep doing the same thing every day. Looking down our noses at people who don’t “measure up” to our standards. Maybe they can’t change where they were born, their sexual desires, their abilities or disabilities, or their race, but we can change our views. Once we change our views, the American Dream can come back into the picture. Maybe then, it’ll be more than material prosperity and have a chance for something closer to inclusion for everyone and exclusion for no one. Until then, I believe, not everyone can attain the American Dream.

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