Tuesday night was Boston Legal 2 with J.P. and K.C. Much of the conversation revolved around the American Dream and the book "Coming Apart" by Charles Murray. I have not read the book, but it postulates a New Lower Class where religiosity, work ethic, industriousness, and family values are nearly nonexistent. At lunch today H.B. felt like the American Dream is fading.
I'm not quite that pessimistic. I believe the American Dream is still available to all who have persistent hope and relentless energy when facing huge economic, political, and societal hurdles. Granted, it may take several generations to fully achieve certain economic outcomes, but our system is not so closed as to prevent a person from bettering themselves and family. It may take ingenuity, sacrifice, and even an angel for assistance (or as some would say a lucky break), but there is plenty of evidence and stories of people raising themselves up from seemingly dire circumstances.
If the American Dream was dying, immigrants would not be beating a path to our Country. Our system would not be the envy of other countries. The standard of living for even the American poor would not be the dream of a majority of the worlds population.
However I am in the minority when I discuss the positive view of the American Dream with others. So what, I ask, is the cause of this perceived decline? There is never a single answer - education, inequality of income and wealth, declining freedoms, nonexistent values, anemic economic conditions, .... the list is endless. But in the form of self fulfilling prophesies, I view the overriding problem is pessimism.
We need leaders to lift up the narrative and generate hope and optimism. We need the uplifting stories of those who are achieving thier Dreams.
It's time to change the attitudes of gloom and doom to delight in sight.