First of foremost when examining the truth of the American Dream one must consider the third word, dream. What is a dream? For me a dream is a mental image and held in the mind. It is not real, but is derived from a series of external experiences which have impacted the unconscious mind. As I consider what I think the founding fathers meant in the Declaration of Independence when it vowed that every person (all men) was created equally and that God, man’s creator, had blessed all with right to life, liberty and to chase happiness and that these rights are indisputable, it was indeed a noble dream, but not a reality. The original verbiage said “all men” and this was indeed a truth, and to explain it further it was all wealthy men of European descent. This is the premise of the American Dream and continues to be so.
In America every other minority group had to demand equality and happiness, and I am not sure that equated to chasing it or pursuing it as originally termed. Minorities such as African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Latinos, and initially Italians and Irish immigrants all had to demand access to the dream. The idea is that The American Dream is a right and a gift; not a right that had to be taken by force or demanded. Additionally, it appeared that women were precluded from it altogether, and therefore, it is difficult to personally believe in the dream as originally stated.

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However, since the inception of the concept of the dream, Americans have historically pursued it by any means necessary. When I think of the elusiveness of the dream I am reminded of Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman written in 1949. Willy Loman, the main character believed if he worked the concept of the American Dream, that he would eventually reap the benefits of its success. However the fulfillment never happens to him the way he envisions it. Although some families at the time were prospering in their corporate jobs, not all Americans were as fortunate and Willy’s family was in the latter category. Willy, unfortunately, was on the other side of success. His dream unrealized and his life ending in tragedy.

Langston Hughes continues the dialogue about the dream when he asked, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry out like a raisin in the sun?”
The American Dream for me is a compilation of experiences and influences. I am not even sure that I own the dream, because dreams are not for real. To say that I don’t believe in the dream is probably going too far, for I do embrace life, freedom, and the right to happiness. The objective is to find your own tangible reality which fits into your expectation of nirvana.

The founders regard of a personal relationship with God, reminds me of the free will that God grant us. He does not demand that people have a relationship, but he offers it. How and what you choose is your decision. I believe that the pursuit of happiness extends far beyond a house, a car, a forty-hour per week job, and two children. I am inclined to take a slice of Thoreau position. Thoreau in his book Walden specifically the chapters on “Economy” and “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” adopt Emerson’s belief in self-reliance.

He attempts to epitomize non-conformity in his two year experiment living in solitary on Walden Pond. Instead of purchasing a property already built, he takes months building one himself. He borrows an axe rather than purchase one, but justifies it by returning it in better condition than when he borrowed it. He obtains seeds in order to plant his own garden, so that he can be self-sufficient, and only uses what he believes he needs, which is not much when compared to his neighbors. He values the simple wigwams of the native Indians over well-built English houses considering them just as warm. His simplicity is applaudable.

Life happens in various seasons and those seasons succumb to episodes. In each season the perception of dream is different. In the early seasons, the American Dream might be stuff such as wealth, power, luxury items, the latest Apple products, boarding schools for my children. As one would suspect, as seasons change, so does my view point in regards to the pursuit of happiness. One overwhelming factor is that my pursuit of happiness should not impede or deny anyone else their happiness. I wish my gain to only be at my expense and not others. When I sleep at night, I prefer to rest with my conscience clear, that I have not in any way undermined the right of anyone to participate in their dream.

My optimum goal is that I can in some way contribute to another’s achieving their dream. I choose not to define anyone else dream and respect their wish to pursue their heart’s content as long as it is not morally wrong or disruptive to the universe or the earth’s natural balance. I reiterate that the American Dream has an unrealistic component to it. Even today after the passage of the laws that address inequalities for a host of Americans, many do not have equal access to healthcare, education or the ability to improve their economic status. Only a small percentage of Americans are wealthy and it appears that they like it that way. However, the idea of the pursuit of happiness is a very achievable goal, because happiness is diverse and eclectic and each individual has to take personal ownership of it.