Friday, April 16, 2010

The American Dream

We've all heard talk about the death of the American Dream; that the American Dream is no longer possible to achieve here in AmericaI can't speak on the reality of the rags-to-riches stories or the problems with our class mobility.... but I can assure you that the American Dream is alive and well.  There are millions of people all over the world hoping that one day they'll get that all powerful green card and be allowed to immigrate to the US.

Everyone has a different reason for wanting a green card; a better chance for their children, freedom from oppression, a chance at a new start.... Even in Taiwan, an advanced and politically free country with great opportunities for entrepreneurs, it seems like everyone is working on getting a green card. (Although they view it more as insurance so that they have a means of escape should China ever attack Taiwan).

But the point isn't why people want to come to America. The point is that everywhere in the world are people just waiting and praying for a chance to come here.

I've always loved my country and had a strong sense of national pride, but it took me leaving for 15 months to really appreciate everything we've got here in America. Even so, I still found myself wondering why. Why would some people risk everything they've got - give up everything they know - for a chance to live here in America? 
As soon as I arrived at my parents house, it hit me. This is why people come to America:
For a chance at owning their own plot of land, their own sanctuary from the craziness of the world. For a yard, and a picket fence, and 2.5 kids, and a dog. For a chance to get away from the smog and noise and people... for a chance at freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

It's funny though. I never thought much of American suburbia, never had too high of an opinion of it, until I really lived in the alternative. The American suburbs are great! Clean air, good schools, low traffic, low crime rate, they're quiet and convenient, and every where you look birds are singing and flowers are blooming... all around, the suburbs are just a great place to raise a family!

What I came home to is why people come to America. My father is a first generation American, his father came here from Germany as a young man. And here my parents are: with three kids, two cars, and a house. Their own land and the freedom to do (almost) anything they please with it. This is why America is a great country. 

Now I'm not delusional, and I know we've got a lot of problems here in the USA - racial inequality, an increasing gap between the rich and poor, trouble with our schools and prisons, not to mention our screwed up foreign policy.  I also know that it's not the only (or the best) place in the world where the "American Dream" is possible to achieve, but the fact remains that anything is possible here. This is a great country. I am proud to be an American, and it is good to be back!
A shot of my home town of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington

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