We need a new American Dream

I grew up middle class in America. I think my parents mostly did a good job. They weren’t that materialistic. They raised five kids in a blended family. They worked hard. We had vacations. We had braces and piano lessons. We had a pony. I had a Nintendo. I played soccer.
They were children of immigrants and in being so, they were truly American. They worked for and achieved what is termed the American Dream. It isn’t cookie cutter. Their brand was creative and noble in some ways.
The lessons we got were that if you worked hard you can get what they got, i.e. a college education, a job in the professions that you would primarily keep for your adult working life, house, a family, several cars, vacations, respect in the community, service to the community. Very middle-class values. Not terrible but not terribly imaginative either. This is what they wanted for us, expected of us.
It worked for them. They learned from a much more challenged generation who aspired to a life of material safety and comfort. America was growing. Property values were appreciating. Of the generation I am speaking, parents of my parents, three out of four of my grandparents were immigrants and all came through challenging if not harrowing experiences to be here in America and to build a family and life here.
Now because of growth and or appreciation of property values in cities and coastal regions, a house may be out of the reach of young families. If you are able to borrow the money it may take 30 years to pay for it. Life seems too uncertain these days to commit to a 30-year loan. People seem to move around more. People don’t have careers the way they used to. People often have gigs or short-term jobs.
What about the environmental impact of every family owning so much stuff. What are we missing by working so much to pay for it? Is it healthy to structure society around the family rather than the village or the extended family?
I guess I am writing this because I have come to question it all. Yet the new vision is still forming and is a bit hazy. Also, society has not created a lot of space for alternative visions. A family can live in a house. A family can live in an apartment. A family can buy. A family can rent.
You either own it or rent it. If you own it, you don’t fully own it till you pay it off. The bank can take it if you miss three or more payments. If you rent, you don’t own it and you can’t make big plans with the rented property.
We have a capitalistic system. Have you noticed that every holiday is just another excuse to have a sale? There is Labor-day sales, Fourth of July sale, black Friday sales, Easter sales, Memorial day sale?,Presidents day sales, on and on and of course the biggest sales of all is Christmas. What is this all about? It seems that buying and selling is really what America is about. Is that the basis for our culture? How very empty, vapid and ultimately destructive. Is this part of the cause of so much mental illness in this country?
What about community and civic participation? These are the most important things according to Ralph Nader the great thinker and writer on American values. Civic participation is what we need more of. Going to city council meetings. Getting a park built where young mothers can take their kids to play and meet other kids and mothers. How about building community gardens? I know these things all exist, but the focus is on the nuclear family in a single-family home with all their own stuff, paid for with 20 to 30 years of indentured servitude to corporate rule. And with these demands on parents, is there really time for civic participation?
I think what is missing is community ownership, shared ownership. Tiny house communities are popping up here and there. Is this part of the answer I am looking for? I guess I feel that the family unit is not the correct unit for society to structure around. It may be for some. Not all of us fit into that model however. The 60’s idea of dropping out of society and forming a commune makes sense to me. These communes usually didn’t last unfortunately. I don’t quite know why. I am thinking and writing. I haven’t manifested community ownership in my life.

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