Perspectives on Honor and Dishonor (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

There are many countries, particularly in Asia, in which honor is taken very seriously, even too seriously.  In Japan or Korea, for examples, there are many instances of men taking their own lives due to what many in those nations have considered to be failures, particularly if losses of innocent lives have been involved under their leadership.  In fact, it seems that it is even an expectation for men and/or women who have been viewed as failures, particularly when harm or death has come to others as a result, to take their own lives.  It appears that such people who have taken their own lives as a result of these particular instances do so because of their feelings of honor and dishonor.  It seems that there is the expectation that they should take their own lives as a result of actions that may have been considered dishonorable.

Pakistani Activists Performing Honor Killing Skit to Protest 2008 Honor Killings of Women (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/column/the-link-s-top-stories/pakistani-family-fears-honour-killing/)

Pakistani Activists Performing Honor Killing Skit to Protest 2008 Honor Killings of Women (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/column/the-link-s-top-stories/pakistani-family-fears-honour-killing/)

In several middle eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, for examples, as well as in countries such as India and Afghanistan, women and girls are expected to remain covered and/or virginal until marriage, according to cultural and/or religious dictates.  If a woman of such culture is raped, however, she is typically blamed and punished, often being disowned by her family, the very people who should be supportive of her.  When a woman is raped in such cultures, society places the burden on her and dictates that she has been dishonorable rather than the man or men who raped her.  Often, then, her family is unsupportive of her and/or may disown her because of her culture’s views that blame, punish, and even torture and kill women for being a victim.  Such killings are known as “honor killings,” however they only bring dishonor to those who have done the killing.  Little or nothing is heard, however, about the man or men bringing dishonor to themselves for perpetrating such crimes.  How often do they get away with it, only to do it again and get away with it again?

Afghan Qamar Jan Survived Attempted Honor Killing When she was Burned by her Fiance (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.judiciaryreport.com/british_muslim_couple_murdered_in_honor_killing.htm)

Afghan Qamar Jan Survived Attempted Honor Killing When she was Burned by her Fiance (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.judiciaryreport.com/ british_muslim_couple_murdered_in_honor_killing.htm)

Three hundred years ago, in the United States, questions of honor – at least among men of European descent who considered themselves “honorable” – may have been settled by a duel.  If one man believed he was dishonored by another, he could challenge that man to a duel.  In a duel, it was the accepted notion within society that the man who won the duel by killing his counterpart was, therefore, “the better man.”  To me, this is not necessarily correct.  That one man may have won a sword battle by killing another man reflects only that he may have been more skilled in wielding the sword.  To me, for anyone to challenge another to a fight to the death simply for believing he was “dishonored” does not value the other’s life.  Therefore, is it worth killing another or taking one’s own life in regard to questions or concerns about honor?  I think not.

Today, however, very different views exist in the United States about honor and dishonor.  One may even ask whether or not honor is a quality that is at all considered of high value in American culture and society.  In the United States (as in other countries, as well), there are those who dishonor themselves by having affairs.  There are those who dishonor, not only themselves, but their spouses and/or children when they divorce their spouses for situations and/or issues that they, themselves, contributed to and/or worsened.  There are people who dishonor their children by hurting and abusing them; in doing so, they also dishonor themselves.

Crime victims (particularly rape and sexual trauma survivors) are often quick to be dishonored by the harassment and/or bullying of others, which may, in turn, cause them to take their own lives.  In society, in general, women are not honored when they do not experience the respect, equality, and/or privilege that most men seem to typically give, unquestioningly, to other men.  Children are not honored when they have no voice and are simply told what to do, how to feel, how to act.  People with disabilities are not honored when parking spaces are occupied by vehicles that are not legally allowed to be there.  Female (and male) military service members and veterans are not honored when they seek treatment for PTSD as a result of sexual trauma experienced by their colleagues, and are denied such treatment, thus being blamed and revictimized.

I am familiar with situations in which wealthy American men of influence and power have traumatized women and girls by sexually harassing them and/or committing other acts of sexual misconduct against them for decades.  Such men may have performed such actions against various girls and/or women across generations, getting away with it because their wealth, power, influence, and privilege have always allowed them to get away with it.  Not only do they get away with it, but they discredit their victims, spread false information and ill repute about their victims, and do whatever they can to cover up their wrongdoing, cause their victims to be ostracized, and save their own skin.  Because of their powerful status in the community, state, nation in which they live, however, most people hold them in high regard and are unable to believe that any of them could possibly commit such acts.  These men have, therefore, dishonored not only themselves, but their families, their communities, their churches, and their businesses.

Say NO to Sexual Harassment Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://anujamishraa.blogspot.com/2012/09/break-your-silence.html)

Say NO to Sexual Harassment Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://anujamishraa.blogspot.com/ 2012/09/break-your-silence.html)

What is sad, then, is that most people seem to be unable to see below the surface of these situations, or even to care about them, and/or attempt to change them for the better.  When such situations are discussed, many avoid taking on these issues because they cause controversy.  This often includes legal counsel and/or the legal system.  How can a poor, albeit educated and intelligent woman be successful in bringing a lawsuit against men who have prominence and power in a state or nation?  Further still, what about a girl who has experienced such situations by men of wealth and power?  It just doesn’t happen, and if it is attempted, the female is discredited and portrayed as the liar, seductress, villainess, while the men are innocently reflected as having done no wrong.  While the men don’t realize it, and likely even deny it, as a result of these situations, they have dishonored themselves.

So, my remaining question is to wonder if it is, indeed, correct to believe that there is little or no recourse for victims and/or survivors of the above-described situations?  Those who create, provoke, and perform such situations are those who, typically, seem to get away with them.  While mainstream society may hold them in high esteem, and/or they may obtain success in defending themselves through the legal system, they have still dishonored themselves by being dishonest and by behaving dishonorably.

Ghandi Forgiveness Quote and Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-mechanics-of-forgiveness/)

Gandhi Forgiveness Quote and Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-mechanics-of-forgiveness/)

People who are honorable lead in the footsteps of goodness and righteousness.  They lead by example.  Honorable people place value in the lives of others; they do what they can to help and support those who most need it; they recognize where they have been wrong, and seek to correct and improve themselves.  People who are honorable are also forgiving, but also learn to protect themselves from those who are dishonorable as a result of their experiences.  It is honorable to be good and forgiving, though it is also honorable to help oneself so that he or she is not further victimized.

People who are dishonorable care only about themselves.  It seems that they, often, cannot see the harm that they create, nor do they care.  And, when confronted about it, they do not take responsibility for it, but instead do whatever they can to deny it, cover it up, and further harm, discredit, and dishonor their victims.  I have observed and experienced this reflected in people who bully others.  I have observed and experienced this reflected in those who sexually traumatize others.  I have observed and experienced this to occur in people who tend to be narcissistic, arrogant, and who believe that they are always correct, and that their way is the only way.  While these people may not realize it, they have dishonored themselves.  Contrary to their faulty thinking, it is not their victims who have dishonored themselves.

Globe and Figures (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://heartofsigma.org/autism/)

Globe and Figures (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://heartofsigma.org/autism/)

Therefore, it is important that people look below the surface of interactions, communications, and situations.  Sometimes, it is important to analyze, research, investigate, and become better-informed about people and situations before making decisions and/or judgments about others that may be incorrect.  It is important for society to realize and recognize that, just because people may appear “honorable” does not mean that they are.  Especially in the United States, where wealth, power, status, and privilege are held so highly by society, it is imperative for people to look below the surface, to recognize that people may not be as good as they seem.  It is also important for people to recognize that some situations, on the surface, may appear to be the fault of the victim, but were really created by the one in power, even years or decades prior to things coming to the surface.

As a person of honor, I appeal to others to view and consider as many possibilities about a particular situation as they can, and then to also investigate to know and understand the true background of such situations by looking below the surface, prior to coming to a conclusion that may be incorrect, and before making a misjudgment that characterizes the victim as the offender, when it may really be the other way around.  I ask people in our society to consider the true nature of such situations so that they may be understood and revealed.  Only then will the honor of those who are truly honorable be known.

The Nice, Hintermister, and Martin Side of the Family (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Michele Babcock-Nice, John Nice, Jr., and Son, Buford, Georgia, 2004

Michele Babcock-Nice, John Nice, Jr., and Son, Buford, Georgia, 2004

I married John Nice, Jr. in July 2002, and our son was born the following year in 2003.  John is a member of the Nice Family of Jacksonville, Florida.  John is a high school physics teacher; most of my career experience (15 years, to date) has also been in teaching.  John’s mother, Carol (Martin) Greene Nice Bennett is from the Martin Family of Florida.  Carol’s parents were Elizabeth “Bessie” (Robinson) Martin and Elmer Martin of Florida.  This article will provide information and photos of some members of those families, as well as the Hintermister’s, who were cousins to the Nice’s due to Betty Jane (Hintermister) Nice marrying Clarence Carter Nice, Jr.

The Nice's, Jacksonville, Florida, Christmas 2004

The Nice’s, Jacksonville, Florida, Christmas 2004

This photo is of my family with John’s parents, Carol (Martin) Greene Nice Bennett and J. Bob Nice.  Carol and Bob have been divorced twice and married three times.  Both of them are now married to their third spouse.  Carol is currently married to Arnold (“Art”) Bennett and Bob is married to Marilyn Nice.  Carol has two brothers, Louis and Charles (“Buddy”) Martin.  They are both married and have families.  Carol also has two sisters.  Her older sister experienced late stage breast cancer and died before I knew her.  I don’t know alot about her older sister.  Her younger sister is Rachel (Martin) Hunter, who is married to Charles Hunter, and they have two daugthers, Kelli and Brandi.  Carol and her family were raised in rural Live Oak, Florida during their childhood.

The Nice's and The Bennett's-Michele Babcock-Nice and  John Nice, Jr. and Son, Carol (Martin) Greene Nice Bennett, Arnold Bennett, Christmas 2004

The Nice’s and The Bennett’s-Michele Babcock-Nice and John Nice, Jr. and Son, Carol (Martin) Greene Nice Bennett, Arnold Bennett, Christmas 2004

This is a photo of my family with John’s parents, Carol (Martin) Greene Nice Bennett and Arnold “Art” Bennett.  Our son was about 1.5 years old at that time.  Carol is Art’s second wife; he had four children with his first wife, two sons and two daugthers.  Art is a Vietnam War military veteran.

Three Generations of Nice's (Bob, John, Baby, Marilyn, Janet's Son), Lawrenceville, Georgia, 2004

Three Generations of Nice’s (Bob, John, Baby, Marilyn, Janet’s Son), Lawrenceville, Georgia, 2004

Bob and Marilyn Nice came to visit us with Janet’s son in 2004.  This picture shows three generations of Nice’s, including Baby Nice.

John Nice, Jr. Dancing with Rachel (Martin) Hunter, Jacksonville, Florida, Summer 2002

John Nice, Jr. Dancing with Rachel (Martin) Hunter, Jacksonville, Florida, Summer 2002

This photo shows John Nice, Jr. dancing with Rachel (Martin) Hunter, the younger sister of his mom, Carol, in 2002.

Matt, Brandi (Hunter) and Baby Boy Brown, Tallahassee, Florida, Christmas 2005

Matt, Brandi (Hunter) and Baby Boy Brown, Tallahassee, Florida, Christmas 2005

Bob and Marilyn Nice, and Baby Nice, Snellville, Georgia, 2003

Bob and Marilyn Nice, and Baby Nice, Snellville, Georgia, 2003

This image is of my son as a newborn with his grandparents, Bob and Marilyn Nice when they came to visit and welcome the baby.  Marilyn has two daughters, including one who is adopted.  This is Marilyn’s second marriage and Bob’s third.

Wedding Party of John Nice Jr. and Michele Babcock-Nice, Snellville, Georgia, July 2002

Wedding Party of John Nice Jr. and Michele Babcock-Nice, Snellville, Georgia, July 2002 (Photo by Emmett Clower, Snellville, Georgia)

In this photo are members of John’s family.  They include Janet (Greene) (Nice) Hebson Adams, Natalie (Nice) __  __ Tuttle, Jason Nice, Janet’s son, Carter Nice, and Krissy Nice, an adopted sister of John.  Janet is a half-sister of John; she is divorced from her first husband, and is married to her second husband.  Natalie has been divorced twice, and is currently married to her third husband.  Jason and Carter Nice are John’s half-brothers.*  One is married and has a family.*  The other has never been married, has a son, and is separated from his son’s mother.*  John also has another adopted sister, Jenni (Nice) Robison, who is married and has two daughters.  Krissy has been married and divorced, and currently does not have any children.  John’s sister, Natalie, pictured in this photo, is his only full biological sibling to him.  Natalie’s children are her adopted children through her marriage to her third husband, Ben; her third husband has three children from his first marriage, of which he is divorced from his first wife.  Natalie is an attorney.

Janet, Mike, and Son, Wedding, Jacksonville, Florida, 2003

Janet, Mike, and Son, Wedding, Jacksonville, Florida, 2003

This photo reflects Janet (Greene) (Nice) Hebson Adams with Mike Adams and Janet’s son from her first marriage.  Both Janet and Mike are divorced from their first spouses; this is their second marriage.  Mike also has a daughter from his first marriage.

Janet (Greene) Nice Hebson (and later, Adams) with Penny Nice, Jacksonville, Florida, Christmas 2001

Janet (Greene) Nice Hebson (and later, Adams) with Penny Nice, Jacksonville, Florida, Christmas 2001

Both this photo and the following one are those that I took at the Nice Family Christmas Party in 2001.

Jimmy Nice, Jacksonville, Florida, Christmas 2001

Jimmy Nice, Jacksonville, Florida, Christmas 2001

The Nice's-Meghan, Krissy, Carter, Jamie, and Jason, Jacksonville, Florida, 2001

The Nice’s-Meghan, Krissy, Carter, Jamie, and Jason, Jacksonville, Florida, 2001

Ben and Natalie (Nice) Tuttle and Family, Georgia, 2004

Ben and Natalie (Nice) Tuttle and Family, Georgia, 2004

Christian, Stephanie, and Baby Girl Nice, Christmas 2004

Christian, Stephanie, and Baby Girl Nice, Christmas 2004

The Nice Boys-Carter, Jimmy, and Bob, Florida, Circa 1948

The Nice Boys-Carter, Jimmy, and Bob, Florida, Circa 1948

This photo shows the Nice boys performing at a church service or concert in Florida around 1948.

Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. and Betty (Hintermister) Nice, Circa 1945

Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. and Betty (Hintermister) Nice and Sons, Circa 1945

This is a photo of the Nice Family around 1945, showing John Nice, Jr.’s father as a toddler (the younger boy) with his brother, Clarence Carter Nice, III, and their parents, Betty (Hintermister) Nice and Clarence Carter Nice, Jr.  The boys’ youngest brother, Jimmy, had not yet been born.  Betty attended college from 1931-1935, graduating in May 1935 with a B.S. in Commerce, I believe from the University of Florida.  She took many business, math, and economics classes, as well as Spanish and psychology.

Elizabeth Nice, Mother of Clarence Carter Nice, John Nice Jr.'s Great Great Grandmother (Image on Porcelain), Circa 1900

Elizabeth Nice, Mother of Clarence Carter Nice, John Nice Jr.’s Great Great Grandmother (Image on Porcelain), Circa 1900

The Nice’s were well-known in Jacksonville, Florida because Dr. Clarence Carter Nice and his son, Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. were symphony conductors there.  Dr. Nice was also known as “Pops.”  Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. also owned a music store in Jacksonville, which, following his death, has been continued by his sons, Bob and Jimmy (now deceased).

Dr. Clarence Carter Nice, Florida, 1934

Dr. Clarence Carter Nice, Florida, 1934

Dr. Clarence Carter Nice and Friends, Circa 1930s

Dr. Clarence Carter Nice and Friends, Circa 1930s

Dr. Clarence Carter Nice and Mrs. Nice, Florida

Dr. Clarence Carter Nice and Mrs. Nice, Florida

Starlight Symphonette, Conducted by C. Carter Nice, Jr., Jacksonville, Florida

Starlight Symphonette, Conducted by C. Carter Nice, Jr., Jacksonville, Florida

Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. at his Music Store, Jacksonville, Florida, 1995

Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. at his Music Store, Jacksonville, Florida, November 21, 1995 (Photo by John Pemberton from the Jacksonville Times-Union)

The Nice’s were big in the Jacksonville, Florida music scene from about 1930-1980.  Clarence Carter Nice, III has been a prominent and successful symphony conductor in California, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in being successful symphony conductors.

The Nice's and Hintermister's, Circa 1950

The Nice’s and Hintermister’s, Circa 1950

This photo shows the Hintermister’s (on the left) and the Nice’s (on the right) from about 1950 in Florida.  The Nice’s and Hintermister’s are cousins.  From left to right in the photo are Sam Hintermister, John Hintermister, Cril Hintermister, Clarence Carter “Carter” Nice, III, Jimmy Nice, and J. Bob Nice.  Sadly, Jimmy struggled with and was lost to cancer a number of years ago.  All of the others are still living.  Sam is married and has adopted children; John is a widower (Candy) and has an adopted son, Josh; and Cril is a bachelor.  Carter is married to his second wife, Jennifer, and has one daughter with her, Olivia; they live in California.  Carter is divorced from his first wife, and has two children with her, a son and daughter, Christian and Danielle.  Jimmy’s wife is Penny, and they have a son and daughter, Jamie and Meghan.  Jamie is married.*  And, I have described about Bob throughout this article.

Divorce in the Nice Family began with Clarence Carter Nice, Jr., when he divorced from Betty.  He married his second wife, Jean, and he adopted her children, a son and two daughters.  The cycle of divorce was broken with Jimmy Nice, who remained married to his only wife, Penny.  The cycle of divorce, however, was continued in both Carter and J. Bob Nice’s families when they became divorced.  J. Bob Nice is divorced from his second wife, Karen (McLane/McLain) Kirton Nice.  Divorce has further continued with John Nice, Jr. due to his divorce from me in 2009.  Most adults in the Nice Family, and half of the adults in the Nice’s extended family, therefore, have been married and divorced at least once.  Three generations of single and/or multiple divorces presently exist in the Nice Family.

John Hintermister

John Hintermister

This photo is of John Hintermister, father of Sam, John, and Cril Hintermister.  He is a decorated military veteran, and is at rest in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Marguerite Hintermister

Marguerite Hintermister

This image is of Marguerite Hintermister, wife of John Hintermister.  I believe these photos of them were taken at or prior to their attending a military ball.  I’m not sure of the year in which the photos were taken.  Marguerite was the sister of Betty Jane (Hintermister) Nice, who married Clarence Carter Nice, Jr.

Marguerite Hintermister in her Later Years, Florida

Marguerite Hintermister in her Later Years, Florida

Marguerite Hintermister on 100th Birthday, Florida

Marguerite Hintermister on 100th Birthday, Florida (Photo by Jill Gutmann, Jacksonville-area Newspaper, 1989)

Cril Hintermister Playing With Baby Nice, Waynesville, North Carolina, 2005

Cril Hintermister Playing With Baby Nice, Waynesville, North Carolina, 2005

John Hintermister and Bob Nice, Jacksonville, Florida, 2002

Bob Nice and John Hintermister (the Younger), Jacksonville, Florida, 2002

Mrs. Hintermister lived to be a centenarian.  This photo of her was taken on her 100th birthday while she was a resident of the North Florida Special Care Center.  She was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania in 1989, and moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1940.

So, all of this information and images lead back to my family, including my son, who is descended from the Babcock’s and Nice’s.

John Nice, Jr., Michele Babcock-Nice, and Son at Kindergarten Graduation, Lilburn, Georgia, 2009

John Nice, Jr., Michele Babcock-Nice, and Son at Kindergarten Graduation, Lilburn, Georgia, 2009

Janet's Son and my Son, Snellville, Georgia, Summer 2012

Janet’s Son and my Son, Snellville, Georgia, Summer 2012

My Webelos Cub Scout Son, 2013

My Webelos Cub Scout Son, 2013

My son has been a Cub Scout for five years, and will transfer to Boy Scouts in May 2014.  He has been an honor student in school for many years.  I love and am very proud of my “Nice” son!

As I locate additional relevant photos from the Martin side of the family, I will include them.

*Author’s Note: Please note that I have edited this article to reflect some of the information provided by Meghan Nice in her above comment.  I did review the article, and believe that no inaccuracies were made.  Information that was not known was merely excluded or written in a vague manner.  In a prior version of the article, information about Jamie Nice being married was not included because that information was not known.  Additionally, the information about John Nice, Jr.’s half brothers is correct because I did not specify which status (either married or separated) was attributed to which man.  I simply stated that one was separated and the other was married without naming them.  Therefore, I will maintain that information as is since it is correct.  For any further detail, please refer to the first comment above in which I have quoted and edited that of Meghan Nice.

References and Sources:

Clower, E. (2002).  Wedding Photos of Michele Babcock-Nice and John Nice, Jr.  Snellville, Georgia.

Guttman, J. (1989).  Photo of Marguerite Hintermister. Jacksonville, Florida-area newspaper.

J.C. Penney Portrait Studios (2004).  Babcock-Nice Family Photos.  Buford, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida.

Pemberton, J. (1995).  Photo of Clarence Carter Nice, Jr. in accompanying newspaper article about him.  Jacksonville, Florida: Jacksonville Times-Union.

Photos and information of Michele Babcock-Nice from 2002-2013 (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

Photos and information of Natalie (Nice) Tuttle from 1900-1960, Jacksonville, Florida.  Those included herein currently the property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

Other photographers/photo sources of professionally-taken photos, unknown.

“University at Buffalo Alumnus Personal Biography Update” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

To follow is an alumni update that I posted today at my alma mater, the University at Buffalo.  I am also posting it here so there is awareness regarding what I wrote, and so that my readers may understand a bit about my background.

In my years since graduation from UB in 1993, most of my career experience has been in teaching, mostly social studies and science.  I obtained my MS from Buffalo State College in 1997; and returned to school there for my education certification, receiving it in 2000, also interning for Sam Hoyt.  I moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area for an employment opportunity in teaching in 2000.  In 2002, I was married; and in 2003, my son was born.  In 2009, I was divorced, following a 2.5-year separation.  I returned to New York State and worked for a few months before moving back to Georgia.  Then, I returned to school and obtained my certificate in healthcare with honors.

Currently, I am pursuing my second master’s degree, this one in counseling, at Argosy University in Atlanta.  There, I am an honor student, and am taking double the full-time course load.  My current activities include volunteer work, as well as maintaining two blogs, and being active on LinkedIn with two groups that I founded and manage, “People Against Retaliation and Bullying,” and “Lepidoptera Lovers.”  I also write and contribute, pseudonymously, for both a national and an international non-profit.  I enjoy nature and the outdoors, and spending quality time with my son.

In my experiences at UB, I am thankful for the opportunity to gain a great education, particularly learning about research and participating as a research assistant in the Department of Psychology.  Having experiences in music as a member of pep band, wind ensemble (concert band), and chorus enriched my life.  Being a member of the UB Royals women’s track team, and competing in shot put at the 1990 NCAA championships also broadened my horizons.  Studying abroad in Poland, visiting relatives, and traveling in Europe were also enjoyable.

UB gave me opportunities to expand my interests and personality in many ways, as I was a member and/or leader in many clubs and organizations.  I met many people at UB who enriched my life.  I am thankful for these experiences, and do my best to make a positive difference in the lives of others, including as a result of both the positive and negative experiences that I had at UB. As a result, I have become a strong advocate for children and women, and victims/survivors of trauma and sexual assault.

Michele Babcock-Nice

BA, Psychology, 1993 & BA, Political Science, 1993

“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.