“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Declaration of Independence
The above quote from the Declaration of Independence is the most well-known line in this early American document. The purpose of this document was for the colonists to proclaim and state the reasons why a separation from Great Britain was necessary. It was written by the Founding Fathers who are said to have been of the Christian faith and followers of God. In this quote, the Founding Fathers inferred that everyone was created equally by their “Creator,” or God, and with this equality comes the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I believe that these three “unalienable rights” are key points to what we call the “American Dream.” The American Dream is the dream of a better life with an even more promising future. It’s what every American wants and what every family strives to achieve. In the book “Epic of America” written by James Adams, he states that the American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…” (p. 214). When Adams wrote this, the American Dream was just that. It was the dream of a better life filled with opportunity. But is this still what the American Dream stands for today? Is there still such a thing as the “American Dream?” Or have we destroyed that image indefinitely?
The quote from Adams’ book is a great definition of the three rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and what the American Dream used to be. The right to Life is simple in the fact that everyone created by God has a right to live and be full of life. Everyone also has the right to Liberty. This means that everyone has the right to do as one wants and to be free from any restraint. The last right mentioned is the right to the pursuit of happiness. I believe that this is the most important right granted by the Declaration of Independence and it is also the most important key to the American Dream. It does not give anyone the right to have happiness but only the right to everyone to pursue happiness. I think that this is what Adams was referring to when he talked about opportunity for everyone based on ability and achievement.
But over the years, the definition of happiness has changed for many and along with that, so has the American Dream. What people now strive to achieve is a better life, but not one that the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and certainly not one that they would approve of. The music video below is a great demonstration of what today’s American Dream consists of.
This video is a great example of what the American Dream has turned into over the past hundreds of years. According to John Nestler in his essay “The American Dream,” “Whereas the American Dream was once equated with certain principles of freedom, it is now equated with things. The American Dream has undergone a metamorphosis from principles to materialism…” You can see this in the music video. In this song by Casting Crowns, an ordinary family is portrayed with a mother, a father, and a son. The mother and the son only want the father and want him to be around more and pay more attention to them. The father on the other hand is too busy chasing the American Dream to even make it to one of his son’s baseball games. In the video you can see throughout that he is building a sand castle which is a representation of building a kingdom out of sand. The castle is wiped completely away when the tides come in because it is only built with sand.
This is seen more often than not today. Most people are too busy chasing the American Dream and trying to give their families a better life which in turn backfires and does the complete opposite. In my own opinion, I see this in the book “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth and is what I think Merry is essentially running away from. The Swede has had a great life and was the All-American growing up. What he wants later on down the road is a better life for his family than what he had when he was a child. But Merry complicates things because she is not perfect and she has a stutter. The Swede tries to help Merry by making her go to a speech therapist so that she can be normal like everyone else but this just pushes her farther and farther away. Unlike her father, she is against the war which in turn leads her to blowing up a building and sends her into hiding. The Swede is torn because of this and hates it but you see in the book that he gives her space and just accepts that she is gone. I believe that this is because he realizes that he just needs to show her that he loves her and wants to be with her instead of trying to give her a better life than what he had.
The American Dream is not what it used to be and many would argue that there is no more American Dream. People are too busy chasing over the material possessions which is not what the original American Dream consisted of. Today, it’s all about who has the biggest house, the best car or the nicest things and they will do whatever it takes to get there. Whether it is working all day and ignoring those around you who love you or even changing other people. This is what the American Dream has become in my eyes. People are building their kingdoms and houses out of sand and not focusing on what the Founding Fathers built this nation on. The land of promise has now become a land of possession.
What do you think?