“What Happened to the American Dream?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

What has happened to the American Dream?  Is it alive?  Is it dead?  Has it changed?  Does it apply to some people and not others?  I think there are several possible answers to this question, with certain answers applying to particular people and different answers being relevant to others.  I will attempt to explore some of the answers to the initially-posed question, and relate those answers to various Americans, particularly those who live on my own street.

When my parents and grandparents were growing up, I believe the American Dream meant to get married, potentially be educated, have a family, own a home, be employed, and be as successful as possible.  There was talk when I was a kid of the American Dream including families owning a home with a white picket fence surrounding the yard, and generally being happy and successful, much like one would imagine on the TV show, Leave it to Beaver.

Even on later shows such as The Brady Bunch, larger families who were combined as a result of second marriages were portrayed as experiencing the ups and downs of life, yet still being happy and successful.  I would be hard-pressed to select an American television show, today, that portrayed the ideal living situation for most American families.  Perhaps a family more like that reflected on Dr. Pol, having a single, adult son living at home with parents who are senior citizens, may be more like the America of today.

Personally, as an adult, the American Dream for me, meant becoming educated, getting married (to an amazing man who would be both an excellent husband and father to our children), owning a home, and having a successful career that was enjoyable and rewarding, along with having a happy family.  The American Dream also meant helping others and giving back to my community.  Throughout my 20s, I strived toward those aims, and achieved one of them – becoming educated.

In my 30s, I accomplished and/or partially attained some other facets of my American Dream, including getting married, owning a home, and having a successful career that was both stressful and rewarding.  While the marriage was nothing close to the ideal that I had envisioned or hoped to achieve, an outcome of the union was the birth of my wonderful son, a blessing from God for whom I will always be thankful.

I can’t say if the family part of my American Dream was ever really “happy,” though I always tried to put on a happy face for my son so he would not have to witness the stress, loneliness, unhappiness, and other issues that were the reality in the marriage.  The marital union was never really a partnership as it should have been, but more like roommates living together and sharing costs, not the type of situation one would envision for the making of a stable family.

One thing was for sure, however, the American Dream never included divorce.  Marriage is supposed to be forever.  Divorce was not an option.  Yet, even so, divorce became a reality, though out of no absolute choice of my own.  I always had hope for better in my American Dream, not worse.  No matter how hard I tried, my American Dream never improved, but only worsened, at least in regard to marital issues.  One just cannot force a person to change or perceive things differently if he won’t.

So, this brings me to the reality of having lost the American Dream.  For so many years, the American Dream has been an elusive façade that, to me, no longer exists.  Having experienced marital separations and a divorce, as well as being unemployed and a full-time student, both the economy and lack of opportunity have proved too challenging for many such as myself to maintain the hope of an American Dream.

What I have observed is that many people who have experienced divorce have also lost their American Dream.  People who have lost their jobs and/or careers, as well as their homes, have also often lost sight of the American Dream.  For others, experiencing each of these factors, simultaneously, has all but obliterated their American Dream.  American Dream?  “What American Dream?,” they ask.  Particularly after a divorce, in addition to the loss of employment and home, it is extremely difficult for people to recover at all, economically.  They wonder what hope is left for something as intangible as the American Dream.  Indeed, for many, the American Dream transformed into something more like an American Nightmare.

Taking into account those who live on my own street, for example, it is possible to explain how the American Dream has changed.  There are 16 houses on my street.  Of those 16 houses, there are six homes in which extended families are living together.  More specifically, in those six homes that include extended families – which all happen to be Caucasian – there is one or more adult child living in the home with one or more of his or her parents who is a senior citizen and/or elderly.  In three of those six homes previously mentioned, there is a single and/or divorced mother who is also raising one or more children.  So, in those three homes, there are three generations of extended family members living together.  Ten years ago, this is something that was rarely experienced among Caucasian families in the United States.

Additionally, on my street, there are only two young couples who own their own homes.  One couple has children, and the other does not.  Most of the homes on my street are owned by Caucasians who are senior citizens and/or elderly.  There is also one home in which an African-American mother resides with three of her sons who are minors.  And, there is a home in which one Caucasian man who is divorced lives by himself.  There are also two homes in which two adult sons live with their elderly mother, and another adult son lives with his elderly mother.  Also, each of these men has been married and divorced at least once.

This is just the make-up of those who live on my street.  This is just another example of the changing face of the American landscape, the transformation of the American Dream.  It is also a reflection that for certain people, the American Dream may still be alive and well.  For two elderly couples and one older couple on my street, they have their homes to themselves.  They have lived out their lives and appear to have lived the American Dream, as well.  Is it only for them, then, that the American Dream has been accomplished?

So, that brings me back to my initial question.  What has happened to the American Dream?  The American Dream appears to be alive for a select few people, but not for most others.  At least, this appears to be applicable to most of those people who live on my street.  Or, perhaps now, they may have a different conceptualization of the American Dream.

At any rate, the American Dream is certainly not anything near to what it was in the times of my parents and grandparents.  For many, such as myself, perhaps it was just an ideal that was never really able to be achieved anyway.  Those who survive must adjust to a changing world, changing times, and changing ideals.  Having strived for something that was unattainable in its entirety, I have experienced just how elusive and no longer realistic the American Dream really is.  One may have to be happy for having experienced parts of it.

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“Remembering 9/11” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan (1)

Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan (1)

The safety and security of our country became a thing of the past on September 11, 2001.  Terrorists highjacked large airplanes, crashing into our beloved Twin Towers and Pentagon, as well as (supposedly) a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, taking the lives and security of 1,000s of victims with them.  In the aftermath, countless families, friends, emergency responders, medical personnel, and all of America was deeply affected by the tragedies.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 showed America the face of evil and hatred.  As Americans living in our safe and cozy world of freedom and democracy, many are oblivious to the terrorism, hatred, and evil that occurs around us throughout the world – and on 9/11, in our own country.

Twin Towers, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2)

Twin Towers, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2)

About 27 years ago, I had a vision in a dream of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.  Because it was a dream, I did not know that the images that I saw would actually become a reality.  The instant that I heard on my vehicle’s radio of the plane crash into the first tower in New York City, I knew that the image that I had dreamed was real.  I was shocked, saddened, grieving, incredulous, and without words that what I had seen in my dream really happened. 

Firefighters on 9/11 (3)

Firefighters on 9/11 (3)

The actual image in my dream that I saw so many years ago was of both Twin Towers burning, and minutes after hearing of the first plane crash, the second occurred.  I had taken the day off from work that day due to a medical appointment, and after it, was glued to the television into the night, still incredulous about the terrorism that had occurred. 

Firefighters Raising Flag in Aftermath of 9/11 (4)

Firefighters Raising Flag
in Aftermath of 9/11 (4)

It was devastating to think that I might have been able to give some warning about the event, but did not, because I had not realized that it would be real. 😦 Then, I also think back and wonder if anyone would have believed me even if I did share about such a tragedy.  Would I have also come under scrutiny?  Had I known better, it would have been worth the risk to inform about what I saw in my dream.

Memorial Flowers, Photos, and Flags in Remembrance of 9/11 (5)

Memorial Flowers, Photos, and Flags in Remembrance of 9/11 (5)

I lived in Manhattan in 1993.  The Twin Towers that I fondly remember are those that stand tall and proud, high into the New York City skyline.  That is the New York that I remember.  And, while I prefer to remember the New York City that was in the past, we cannot escape the fact that terrorism does occur and that there are terrorists among us.  I believe that Americans must take greater care and caution in protecting ourselves on a greater scale, to be aware of anything that appears suspicious or amiss, to inform authorities and/or take personal action to deter or stop potential terrorist acts from occurring. 

Pentagon Burning on 9/11 (6)

Pentagon Burning on 9/11 (6)

While we have made great strides as a nation in strengthening and burgeoning our national security, the events that occurred at this year’s Boston marathon are a reminder that more needs to be done.  For the greater good and for the best interests of everyone – including the terrorists who cannot see that their actions are wrong – we, as a nation, must be more aware, take more action, and be more cautious and inform about others’ actions that may seem strange or suspicious. 

Flight 93 Supposed Crash Site, 9/11 (7)

Flight 93 Supposed Crash Site, 9/11 (7)

We must be aware when people take piloting classes, but are not interested in learning how to land a plane.  To me, that would immediately raise suspicions.  We must observe when people are carrying heavy backpacks into crowded events, placing and leaving them there.  We must be aware of people who park vehicles in particular areas and abandon them.  We might even be aware of people who wear heavy clothing on a hot day, in order to conceal a weapon. 

New York City 9/11 Memorial (8)

New York City 9/11 Memorial (8)

Americans must awaken from our slumber, no longer being complacent about our safety and security.  There are many people out there who hate Americans and who will do whatever possible to injure or kill as many of us as possible.  We must be vigilant of our surroundings and environment, taking action, removing our apathy and complacency. 

People Remembering at 9/11 Memorial (9)

People Remembering at 9/11 Memorial (9)

The events of 9/11 should have taught us that we should not necessarily view the world with rose-colored glasses any longer.  Let us always be aware and vigilant so that such terrorist actions are not repeated on our soil.

Photo Credit Websites:

1: http://www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress/events-091101.html

2: http://nwoobserver.wordpress.com/

3: http://www.kpbs.org/photos/galleries/2011/sep/06/remembering-911/

4: http://www.xtimeline.com/evt/view.aspx?id=837061

5: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2011/09/07/remembering-911

6: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2011/09/7-pentagon-attack-arlington-september-11-attacks-aftermath-pictures/

7: http://911blogger.com/news/2013-02-19/shanksville-pennsylvania-911-mysterious-plane-crash-site-without-plane

8: http://socyberty.com/issues/ten-years-after-the-attacks-of-september-11-2001-obama-recules-in-new-york-at-attacks/

9: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/09/11/11-years-later-nyc-remembers-911-terror-attacks/