Does America Need New Dreams?

 December 14, 2016

Over the past weekend I listened to reports about how the American Dream of each generation making more than their parents is no longer available to many young adults. (American Dream Collapsing) I don’t know about you, but that was never my dream, either for myself or my children. Since I went into ministry, my children have easily outpaced my earnings. I doubt I ever made more than my parents, however my standard of living has been as high as theirs, possibly higher as when they were young they struggled to feed and clothe five kids and keep a roof over our heads on one income. Their budget was tight.

There was a time when prosperity was considered a chicken in every pot and car in every garage. Now this includes a wealth of electronic devices including cell phones and big screen TVs.

Where did we get the idea that growth was required for the good life? Every year the GDP is supposed to grow. If one million is good, twenty million is better. Stores have to be always expanding, market shares increasing.

In nature there is a cycle of growth and decay. Uncontrolled growth of human cells is cancer. Uncontrolled growth of weeds or aquatic plants leaves ours garden useless and our waterways swamps as weeds choke out other life forms. Uncontrolled growth of business will do the same to the economy, choking small businesses.

Perhaps in the frontier days when the US had masses of unexplored land to conquer, this dream of constant growth was a possible one, but that has not been the case for decades.

So why cling to unrealistic, and not only unattainable dreams, but ones that are not healthy for our world or our children? Why base our dreams on material items that fade and die? Throughout a person’s life span their dreams change, some dreams die and others are born out of the ashes of those dreams, better dreams. Why not let those communal dreams die a natural death in order to be replaced by better ones?

I dream of an America where poverty is finally wiped out, where everyone has meaningful employment and the resources to provide the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, medical care. I dream of a world were greed is not emulated and allowed to run rampant, destroying livelihoods. Like Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, I dream of a world where it is easier to be good. I dream of a world at peace and America as a leader in bringing about that peace..

We Americans have already conquered the West. I still believe in hard work as a means to provide a better life for your family. Work is necessary for good mental health. But maybe it’s time we find new dreams, better dreams, more suited to the state of our world today.

What do you think? What are your dreams for America?

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