Updated: Jul 30
What is the American Dream? The concept and the promises of the American Dream have become so perverted over the years by Americans that immigrants have a better understanding and desire to achieve the true American Dream than people who were born in this country. The American Dream is not living like the Kennedy’s on some compound in Martha’s Vineyard, or becoming a tech billionaire, or even a millionaire athlete or movie star. Those lives are limited to a few.
But the authentic American Dream is available to everyone. It is the simple idea that the child does better than the parents. That is the goal. The parents work hard to give their children better life opportunities than they had. And those children work hard to give their children better opportunities. The American Dream is a generational process of incrementally improving the social class of the family. Although there are some compelling examples, the American Dream was not meant to be realized in one generation. It was always a multi-generational dream achieved through a generational sacrifice.
In the Academy award winning movie, On the Waterfront, Edie’s father who spent his life working on the docks, crystallizes the American Dream when he tells her, “See this arm? It's two inches longer than the other one. That's years of workin' and sweatin', liftin' and swingin' a hook. And every time I heisted a box or a coffee bag, I says to myself—this is for Edie, so she can be a teacher or somethin' decent. I promised your mother.” That’s the American Dream. The parents doing the backbreaking work so their children don’t have to.
This was the dream of people emigrating to the United States in the 1800’s and through today. In the European countries that many of the 19th century immigrants were fleeing, their social class was inherited, and fixed. Upward mobility was rare. The poor stayed poor, and the rich stayed rich. But America offered these immigrants and their families different life opportunities, the hope of social advancement. Being born poor in America was not necessarily a life sentence.
Today, we are told that the American Dream is dead. But dead for who? Simply because some are not realizing the American Dream does not mean the Dream no longer exists. Those who deny or deride the American Dream lack this simple understanding of what it is and what it offers. They super-impose their own jaded notions of it created by their own warped visions and values to declare the Dream is dead when in reality it is still alive and well for those who understand and are open to it.
Many people who have not achieved the promise of the American Dream, are missing a vital component of the dream; a stable family. Family is the foundation, and the impetus of social advancement. It is nearly impossible for a child to realize the American dream without two parents in the home. When the father leaves his family, he is making a decision to put himself ahead of his children which short circuits the mechanism of the American Dream for his family. Welfare, food stamps and government assistance are not launching points for social advancement. People in those programs are not building or advancing toward anything. They are treading water, victims of the societal dismantling of the family, the foundation of the American Dream.
This is essential for the Marxist’s transformation of American society. The dissolution of the traditional western family is one of the main goals of Marxism. They believe if they can destroy the American family, they will kill the American Dream. In communist and socialist countries, upward mobility is rare because it goes against the core principles of Marxism. Marxism adheres to the motto, “from those according to their ability, to those according to their need.” The ability to advance through social classes is rendered nearly impossible through their redistribution system which takes from the producers and gives to the non-producers. Your abilities and efforts do not lift you up because you are not allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor; they are taken from you. So, any attempt to advance, to move upward is thwarted to maintain their contrived idea of equality.
In contrast, the American Dream is an opportunity for everyone for a better life based on their abilities, effort, and production. The people protesting in Cuba are clamoring for the freedom of America which offers the opportunity for a better life. But opportunity is not a guarantee. Opportunity is hope. Hope for a better future, not hope for another government program or handout.
The American Dream is the exact opposite of the communist and socialist vision of society where citizens are reduced to nameless numbers on anonymous lists. The American Dream is about the freedom to break free from the shackles of government and society, and forge the life you want to live. The American Dream champions the individual. It is the ultimate diversity. Every one of us is different. It is the rejection of group identity for individual empowerment. Communism and socialism break society down into groups, and those groups identities supersede our individual identities. There is no subtlety, no nuance, no context. It is completely lacking in diversity.
This is why the big tech oligarchs who are taking over our country lean heavily to the socialist anti-American view of the world. They do not see people as individuals, they view people as bits of data, a series of 0’s and 1’s, collated into groups, quantified and manipulated by algorithms for their enrichment. Every time they group us into their boxes, they are strangling the American Dream because they are slowly denying our individuality, and ultimately our freedom.
This is why it is not only misleading, but harmful, to dismiss success of white people in America as “white privilege”. This unfounded accusation not only denies the level of effort required to achieve success, but also denies the role of the individual, and the American Dream in their success. It also tells a group of people that the American Dream is not available to them, which causes them to not do the things necessary to realize the Dream, which results in them becoming perpetually caught up in the cycle of poverty. “White” had little to do with the success. Most likely, their parents committed themselves to giving their children opportunities they never had, as their parents did before them, and so on. Somewhere along the way someone in the family tree decided to break the cycle of poverty.
My father grew up poor, but was able to send all eight of his children to college, four to Ivy League schools. No one confused us with the Rockefellers. My father never made more than $65,000 per year in his life, but he worked 80-90 hours a week, while my mom worked from sun-up to sundown making sure we were cared for the right way. My parents stayed married for 59 years until my father’s death. That’s the privilege I inherited. Nothing to do with skin color, 100% to do with my parents. That’s the driving force behind any success I have enjoyed in life, and behind many people's realization of the American Dream.
It will only be when we can look beyond race and group identities to see the individual will we be able to identify the true drivers of success, and also understand how to realize the American Dream for everyone.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.