The destination of the American Dream

Megan Friel, Editor in Chief

This past Mother’s Day brought about all of the usual holiday antics to my family: the family dinner at my Omi’s (my grandmother), aunts, uncles, and cousins bonding between bites, and of course – the fighting. However, this debate was one more heavy than the usual topics of discussion (religion, education, family drama). Instead, this discussion began with poverty and drugs in our community and ended with the definition of the American Dream. This debate prompted the question: has America lost it’s integrity?

While every dinner brings a heated discussion, this one seemed to be the worst. To start off the conversation, we dove into the depth of poverty within Biddeford. This soon led down the path that drugs, and/or drug addicts, are sometimes brought into their addiction by poverty. Then along my Omi, guns blazing, exclaiming that Americans don’t work for their happiness, but instead find it through drugs or alcohol. Coming from a woman whose father lost his job in the great depression and whose mother spent most of her life in the mental hospital, my Omi knows a thing or two about working for her happiness. She believes that drug addicts have the option to simply stop, put down the drugs, or get their life back on track. She believes that Americans have lost their will to work for what they want, but instead take the easy way out – focusing on drugs. She believes America has lost its integrity.

This caused an eruption of angry aunts and uncles, as well as an occasional cousin or two, refuting her point. To understand the depth of this conversation is to understand my family dynamic. Involved in this conversation was my uncle John, a fireman who gets called to at least three heroin overdoses a week; my mother, a social worker who has dealt with struggling drug addicts her entire career; and lastly, my aunt Connie, a teacher who works with children who come from troubled families, some with addicted parents. To them, my Omi’s proposal that we need to work for happiness instead of finding salvation in drugs was somewhat insulting. They’ve seen the struggle for these addicts to quit. They’ve seen the problems that drove these addicts to first pick up these awful habits. They see how hard it is to just stop.

This conversation arose at an ironic time, being that I had just spent the past week hearing from not only former drugs addicts but the families of former drug addicts. Drug awareness was well upon me. There I sat amongst the madness, pondering the subject. While I don’t believe in the use of drugs, I see where problems arise. I don’t believe that drug users turn to drugs in the pursuit of happiness, necessarily. Some are hooked on prescription painkillers handed to them by a doctor, some are simply addicted. The American Dream isn’t the focus for every American, and to say that America has no integrity is to generalize all Americans, which is simply unfair. The American dream is no longer working a standard 9-5 job in hopes of happiness, but instead has transformed into an easier, more laid-back rendition of this dream. Americans have branched out into travellers, artists, and dreamers. Our definition of happiness no longer always involves money, but instead doing what we love with the freedom to do it.

While I see where my Omi may have a point, coming from her traumatic family history and childhood, I believe the American dream has changed. To say that we don’t work for our happiness is to discredit every blue-collar worker in America, fighting to provide for their families. I see students in my class getting no sleep, fighting for a 4.0 GPA so they can get the job of their dreams. I witness this fight every day in the people  all around me, whether it be family or friends. I don’t believe that the American Dream is dead, nor do I believe that America has lost it’s integrity. Instead, we’ve redefined the American dream and along with it, we’ve redefined happiness. The American Dream is the dream of this generation – one that varies with each person. There is no definition, rule, or agenda to this dream, just the passion of those that stumble upon it.