What Happened to the American Dream???


Growing up in the inner city of Highland Park, Michigan, I learned right away that the world can be a cold, cold, COLD place to those who do NOT prepare for tomorrow, today. It also taught me these three, very important things:


ONE! Respect is earned, not given.

TWO!! Never judge a book by its cover.

THREE!!! Time waits for no man. Life is temporary. Chase the cheese for as long as you’re in this rat race (see what I did there o_O?) that we call life.

The false hope associated with that of The American Dream can be correlated to many different factors. Here, we will explore three possibilities. Kiss the baby goodnight, silence your phone, kick up your feet and get the popcorn ready, as I present to you, the answer to the million dollar question that my generation has wondered since we entered “Adulthood”…. What Happened to the American Dream???


Ignorance vs. Patience:

Remember hot summer days growing up? Back when our only responsibility was staying out of trouble, traffic, the neighbor’s yard, and to wait on the ice cream truck. It was all worth it after a Two Ball Screwball! What about the days when the ice cream truck didn’t come? We begged mom and dad for an extra dollar and walked to the store to buy ice cream the hard way.


What if we never knew that ice cream truck existed? Would we still get up and get it ourselves? Maybe, maybe not. As much as I would like to stop writing in favor of an ice cream run, I’m going somewhere with this. Imagine if we had no idea of what success looked like, would we still want it so badly? Or would we wait around for the ice cream truck all day?


Living between the superintendent of a small, inner city school district and a retired educator turned politician, as a kid with educated parents, I was sold on The American Dream. In this dream, I saw a big brick house with a white picket fence, a midnight blue Beamer in the driveway, a high paying job doing what I loved and a pregnant wife to convert my house into a home.


The problem arises when there are too many people waiting for the ice cream truck and not enough people getting up, to get a carton of their favorite guilty pleasure (Cookies & Cream if anybody cares) on their own. Growing up with that dream playing constantly on my frontal lobe, day and night, I thought it was automatic, guaranteed, surefire, you know, in the bag for all... FALSE! Never judge a book by its cover.


A very wise woman once said “The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.” It wasn’t until undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University that I fully understood, exactly what that quote meant.


“YOU AINT GOT THE ANSWERS!”

Sway isn’t the only one without the answers, no one has them all. At some point we learn how to find the answers to most questions that may surface throughout our lives. The question most people forget to ask, or even explore for themselves, is HOW?


How do we live the American Dream? PATIENCE, hard work pays off. Old money (generations of families getting richer) once began as an idea and a strong work ethic. Find your passion, set a goal and CHASE YOUR DREAMS! Life is a journey, enjoy it.


Money vs. Greed:

In the free world we have two choices. Be a dream chaser, or a dream bandit. A dream chaser is someone who thinks very highly of themselves, this can be a gift and a curse. As a dream chaser, you have high expectations for yourself and those around you. You know your strengths, weakness and how to get things done regardless of the circumstances.


A dream bandit benefits from another person’s hard work and dedication. Another word for a dream bandit would be GREEDY, lazy, moochers, heartless, ignorant and ill-bred to name a few. When these two types of people intertwine, the outcome rarely favors the dream chaser.


TRUE STORY ALERT

7 years ago, I worked all summer, saved up and bought a car, not just any car but a car reliable enough to take with me after I transferred colleges to the west side of Michigan. Exactly 3 weeks later, it was stolen from my driveway.


I’ve never been the type to wait around for the ice cream truck but apparently you can’t leave your Drumstick unattended, as you run inside to see if your favorite 90’s TV show has started.


Many people think money is the root of evil, this is partially true. Greed however, is the genesis of evil. The moment impatience conquers a patient mind, an act of greed has just occurred. There are levels to this, I’m not talking about warming up a pizza in the microwave for 20 seconds, versus 15 minutes in the oven (hungry yet?).


Let’s go a little deeper, according to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting in 2012 there were 10,379 robberies in Michigan, roughly 40% of them (4,183) were committed with a handgun. Now, let’s take a dive even deeper. Of those 10,379 robberies, the property stolen from these citizens totaled a whopping $13,171,167! Pretend the average Michigan citizen makes $10 an hour, that’s 1,317,116.7 working hours (54,879 days, 150 years), WASTED. And we all know time waits for no man.


  • Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself.


Sound familiar? School Rules? BINGO! The blueprint was laid for us since recess and lunch were our favorite past times. If we know what to do, why don’t most people do it? Many people forget these behaviors that promote love and respect, for crimes that are rooted by hate and terror. The underlying issue is a war that humans have been fighting for thousands of years.


Love vs. Hate:

Love makes the world go round and hate is its antithesis. If you take a look into the history of The United States, a generation or two before the Baby Boomers, America has drastically changed. In those days, jobs were plentiful, marriages were successful, most families had two parents and children actually respected their elders.


In comparison to today’s society, what has changed? The US Census Bureau reports a growing number of 317,443,344 Americans citizens walking on Planet Earth. 7.35% or 23,333,085 of Americans are unemployed as recorded by The Bureau of Labor Statistics. The divorce rate is at an unbelievable figure of almost 50%.


What about the head of the households? You may want to sit down for this one, Black children have a 52.1% chance of growing up in a single parent household. Those of Hispanic decent face a 27.5% chance, 19.9% for Caucasian children and 12% for children of Asian ancestry per US Census Bureau. Last but not least, do young Americans still respect their elder counterparts?


The level of respect that today’s youth have for our elders as a whole, deteriorates daily. As witnessed through my own schooling and career as an educator. In my opinion, we have truly taken a step back in this department. It is imperative to know where you’re from, in order to know where you’re going.


In a society that doesn’t read nearly as much as our predecessors, many of the elders who are being disrespected and are still with us, HAVE THE ANSWERS. The love has been lost in America. Bullying is at an all-time high, self-esteem is at an all-time low. Not just in school but at home as well. The playgrounds and a place once considered “safe zones”, the neighborhoods in which our youth reside.


In 2014, Sports and Entertainment seem to have been prioritized over education. Simultaneously, education has been taken for granted, which in turn diminishes the role of our very first mentors, school staff and parents.


Children and adolescents live as if they have all the answers, to the wonders of the world. Nothing could be furthest from the truth. We were all born ignorant, however knowledge is contagious.


One of the biggest problems we face today, is that the love has been lost and the hatred has multiplied. The great thing about the two, is that they’re LEARNED BEHAVIORS. For some it may be too late. For others, life is an ongoing process and we still have time, until we no longer have time.


The American Dream is still alive and many are living proof of it every day. The American Dream is in fact attainable but it starts with an idea, a strong will and work ethic.


Set a goal, reach it then set another and another until you find happiness. We are here to find our own happiness, pay it forward, reproduce and raise responsible off springs. Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.


That being said…

I challenge you all to make YOUR American Dream a reality, before it’s too late. Life is short and time waits for no man, USE YOUR TIME WISELY. Don’t sit around all day waiting for the bells of an ice cream truck that may never come... Go get the sherbet yourself!


Be Great!

© Ali Muhammad 2014

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