Piss on the American Dream

With the “war on terror” laid to rest, Obama should wipe the so-called “American Dream” from the agenda next and make way for the MDGs.

Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan has a name for us Americans. He calls us âÄúgreat, big teethed freaks.âÄù As Tiernan explains, âÄúEverybody walks around in America with their big gaudy smiles shouting, âÄòHave a nice day, Tom! Have a nice day!âÄô What?! That sounds like a threat to an Irish person! IâÄôll have whatever [expletive] kind of day I want, lad!âÄù He goes on to point out, âÄúYou see, Irish people are wee bit more realistic about the world. We know itâÄôs dark. ItâÄôs something mental âĦ When the Irish greet each other on the street, we say âÄòGood Luck!âÄô … âÄòcause we donâÄôt know what the [expletive] going to happen to us next!âÄù I have to agree with Tiernan in that itâÄôs time for us all to get a little more realistic. If I ever have children, IâÄôm not going to coddle them with the same kind of illusions that weâÄôve been taught to believe. Nope. IâÄôm simply going to pop them out, dress them in potato sacks, and raise them on rice and beans. My parents tried to do the same for me. When I told my dad I wanted to grow up to be a writer for National Geographic, he said, âÄúHoney, IâÄôm sure youâÄôll do great because youâÄôre a real person âĦ and âĦ um, thatâÄôs a real job.âÄù As if declaring an occupation short of reality was the only thing that would hinder my ability to succeed. At the time, I considered his advice to be the worst IâÄôd ever received, but now, I think I understand what his sarcasm means. More or less: forget about the American Dream. A CNN poll taken in 2006 found that 54 percent of those surveyed considered the American Dream unachievable and a 2009 CNN take shows that only 39 percent of people feel confident they will be able to maintain their standard of living âÄî a dramatic 45 percent decrease from 2008. You could blame this pessimism on the recession or you could call a spade a spade: The American Dream of today is only as real as those e-mails you get from Mr. Ondongo of Nigeria asking to wire $2 million dollars in your name. We know enough to click delete on that, yet when given the same proposal dressed in the romanticized terminology of the âÄúAmerican Dream,âÄù weâÄôre prone to believe. This is because growing up, we have been fed a certain conception of success âÄî namely wealth and fame all by way of short-term gain. It sounds good, it looks delicious, but as weâÄôre now learning, if you snort that stuff, you will go insane. In the last fifteen years or so, the great âÄútoxic optimism,âÄù as Tiernan cheekily calls it, that Americans are so loved for abroad has mutated into a perverted sense of entitlement where enough is enough and everything is about me, me, ME. Not only have we divorced ourselves from any sense of common good within our own country, but we have visited this plague on the world abroad as well. President Barack Obama is doing his best to pick up the pieces âÄî lifting the travel restrictions on Cuba and shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, to name a few âÄî but he canâÄôt do it alone. His administration wisely chose to retire the term âÄúwar on terrorâÄù that has done so much damage to the world, but I propose he takes it a step further and puts the American Dream on the chopping block too. In its place, we should all be talking about the âÄúMillennium Goals.âÄù The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a historic promise made by 189 world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 with a view to free the world from abject poverty by 2015. The eight concrete goals address the issues of hunger, education, health and sustainability, to name a few. ItâÄôs our roundabout, long overdue realization that, âÄúWait a second! You donâÄôt have to come to the States to achieve the [original] American Dream; we can bring it to you!âÄù However brilliant in its conception, we are now only six years away from the deadline and as the 2008 U.N. MDGs Progress Report states , âÄúWe have made important progress âĦ but we are not on track to fulfill our commitments.âÄù The report does not condone the current economic crisis as an excuse for our lack of progress either. Instead, it argues that we had the knowledge and the tools to foresee these problems, yet we still chose to act recklessly. âÄúIt is now our responsibility to make up lost ground,âÄù U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon pleads. If we can replace our selfish American Dream with the more altruistic Millennium Goals, I think weâÄôd be well on our way. Once upon a time, it was all about an ideal. Living in America awarded you the opportunity, the possibility, the freedom to potentially achieve the âÄúrag-to-richesâÄù dream. It wasnâÄôt going to happen overnight and it certainly wasnâÄôt guaranteed, but the harder you worked, the greater your chances of success. If not, you were still happy because odds were that the conditions in America were far better than whatever country you fled. Fast forward to the present day and major news networks donâÄôt let an hour slip by without crying out, âÄúWhatâÄôs happening to the American Dream?âÄù and tea-baggers complain âÄúno taxation without representationâÄù because somebody else has got their hands on their green. Please. Where were the commentators 15 years ago when the real American Dream was being replaced by pornographic houses, social inclusion solely based on purchasing power and ridiculous get-rich schemes? Where were the tea-baggers when our taxes were going to wars abroad instead of trying to fix our own economy? When did being middle-class suddenly become so obscene? And lastly, does anyone realize (or care) that our current lifestyles are a huge part of the reason why more than 1.1 billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day? I donâÄôt care what it stood for back at the start of our great country, we have created a monster and that monster is our present-day conception of the American Dream. I know not everyone has fallen victim to this hyperbole and yet they still are required to suffer the effects of everyone elseâÄôs excess. For this, we should be even more ashamed. Still, we are so lucky that in a world wrought with despotism, disease, and death, our biggest worry is debt âÄî so I donâÄôt want to hear another complaint. Sorry for the lecture, but sometimes âĦ I get so tired of this scene. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]