Corey Tyler, 25 years old, works for a private company. He is patriotic. His parents were born in the U.S. and his grandparents, too. Now he lives in Texas, where people tell him he was born to become rich.
On being asked to define the American dream, he hesitated. “It’s a golden era that may never come,” he said. “Do you believe your children may live in a dream?” I interrupted. “Future is ours”, he told me.
This is true.
The postwar American idyll was good for his grandparents, but not for him. “They are so nostalgic,” he smiled. “Every time they hear I don’t want a big house and two cars, they sigh”.
“I believe in spiritual happiness,” he then added, “Spiritual happiness and hard work.”
Marcia Leroy from San Diego, California, did not think much. “I’m a realist,” she admitted, “and I don’t think American dream exists. It’s like a word without sense, just a name.”
Marcia, a 20-year-old student, works as a waitress and wants to make loads of money. When asked if making money was her American dream, she waved her hand. “You can call it whatever you want. Give me a proper job, and I will be satisfied.”
Unfortunately, the unemployment rate in America shows that Marcia is right. When 12 million Americans cannot find job, financial stability is important (Nolan, 2013).
Louis Fuentes, who was born in Brazil and moved to America from Rio, could not agree more.
“I’ve been working seven days a week,” he told me. “And I was sure American dream would come true, because it is an equality for everyone.”
He is now a part-time employee with family. “I have relatives in Rio, and I have to support them too,” he told me. He is now 32, working as an interior designer, but he is not very satisfied with his life.
“I want stability,” he confessed to me. “When I was younger, I thought everything was possible. Now, with the economic problems, I fear for the future of my kids.”
Louis talked about recession and the great economic decline. It is obvious that the middle class in America is not the richest in the world anymore. People believe that if they work hard they would make profit, but it is not always so.
Lisa Stevenson, 54, Visalia, may not be as young as Corey and Marcia, but she is certainly more optimistic. “I’ve been working as an engineer for my whole life,” she told me, “and you know what? My dream came true.”
She is proud of her country despite the major economic problems and declines. “I am happy with my job and way of living. If this is what they call the American dream, then I believe in it.”
Marissa Torolla, a typical valley girl, tanned and bubbly, was all smiles when I approached her with a question. “I love American lifestyle,” she started enthusiastically. “I can’t imagine myself living somewhere else.”
My next question, predictably, was to explain the meaning of American dream. She thought for a moment. “Something ideal”, she said finally.
For well-off girls, like Marissa, work is not the most essential part of their lives. She has never encountered a type of trouble Louis Fuentes has: unemployment.
Her parents are successful business owners, so she does not need to worry about her income. Marissa’s whole life is a dream, and she knows it.
“I hear ‘the American dream’ and I imagine driving off into sunset in a bright red car,” she told me later, sitting on a California beach. “It’s something Lana Del Rey sings about.”
Marcia Leroy, who works and studies at the same time, would not get her concept; and neither would Ratana Kanya, a Thai model, who was born in Pattaya and moved to the U.S. at the age of 10.
“American dream, really?” Ratana asked me twice before I could explain. “I prefer to be awake.”
She is 24 now and has to sign a fashion contract so she does not end up on the street. “I thought that America was the most economically safe country,” she told me afterwards. “I thought that if I’m ambitious enough, I can find my place under the sun.”
Ratana complained that there was no room for immigrants in the U.S. when it came to the ‘prestigious’ jobs. “I had to do photo shoots because it was all there for me.”
The tendency of a less friendly attitude to immigrants is true. America no longer seems to be ‘a country for all’.
“I agree with Sofía Vergara,” Ratana added. “America is a country of freedom unless you are Asian, Hispanic, or black.”
Jen Christensen, a Scandinavian looking guy, said there are no ideals in the American society. “I was a teenager when we moved here from Norway, and I’m sure the whole American dream is a lie.”
He said he misses his homeland greatly and added that he does not like what is going on in America now.
“Look at these people!” he exclaimed passionately as we were walking through his coffee shop. “They are positively degrading.”
Jen, 28, says there is no future for a country with such social and economic issues. “One day we all are going to wake up to find there is no middle class in the United States,” he adds as we drink latte.
He may be right. In 2013, more than half of America’s population defined themselves as lower middle class, stating that social advancement is out of their reach (Kohen, 2014).
David Fernando of Riverside, CA, looks on the brighter side of the all-American future.
“America is the best,” he explained to me confidently, “because we have laws for people and freedom of choice.”
He is proud to be the citizen of the United States. “I am the American dream,” he added laughing, “because I already live in America, while other people only want to come.”