The American Dream

lottery-ticket-jpgA few days ago I was watching a Daily Show segment about the Illinois lottery when something struck me as very disconcerting.

The segment focused on a middle-aged couple who had recently won around $250,000 in the state lottery. The focus of the segment was on Illinois’ current inability to actually pay lottery winners, even though people can continue to buy lottery tickets.

That’s odd enough. But it was something the husband said near the end of the segment that really hit me. He’s asked if he’s still buying lottery tickets, and he reveals that he is. He says, “Yeah I should know, but it’s the American dream; you hit the lottery and it makes your life better. But I guess not.”

Since when is hitting the lottery the American dream?!

Now, I know that’s just one guy out of millions of Americans. But it saddens me that even one of us considers winning the lottery to be the American dream. There are so many better American dreams he could have–here are just a few of them:

  • Starting out from humble roots and breaking barriers as you achieve greatness
  • Paving your own path based on your unique desires, beliefs, and ingenuity
  • Hitting rock bottom and clawing your way back up to the top of your field
  • Becoming really, really good at something through years of practice
  • Inventing something that changes the world through tons of trial and error

None of those involve winning a game of pure luck.

Now, I’m not passing judgment on buying lottery tickets. Spend your money as you wish. But dream a little bigger, dude. Because if that’s the American dream for any significant number of people, America is in for some rough times.


12 Responses to “The American Dream”

  1. Ryan says:

    I would say it’s that mentality that has put our country in the shape it’s in now.

  2. Allen Chang says:

    I have a question: what makes the American Dream unique to America? The list of dreams outlined all seem to be dreams that are admirable achievements regardless of where you live, with exception to winning the lottery one, that one Americans can keep 😉

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Allen: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s unique to America at all. Sorry if the post sounded like that. 🙂

      • Allen Chang says:

        All good, it wasn’t a slight on your post. In Australia the saying we have is, “living the dream.” So I’m genuinely interested in what makes “the American dream” uniquely American.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          I don’t know if there is something unique about it, other than the colloquial use of it. So do people in Australia never say, “The Australian Dream”?

          • Allen Chang says:

            Nope, not really. At least not to my knowledge. The Taiwanese also don’t say “The Taiwanese Dream” either.

            That said, I think “The Great American Novel” makes perfect sense to me as there are definable qualities that differentiate it from a “Great Novel” that is uniquely American.

            • The term “American Dream” began when there was a boom in business in America. This led a lot of people to immigrate to America. The American Dream basically stated that anyone could make it big in America no matter who they were with hard work.
              It’s the hard work part that people tend to forget these days.
              The term is still used a lot but now it is used to encompass any way possible to have a lot of money.
              It’s a shame that some people might miss the true meaning today.

              • Joe Babbitt says:

                Whereas I will agree with the notion that hard work is (sometimes) a lost part of the equation, it cannot really be argued that the game in modern times is rigged. The most common (and arguably best) way to “get rich” in America these days is to be born into wealth.

  3. You might want to add a bullet point on family.

  4. Tolles says:

    Since when has this not been the American Dream?

    My version of the dream is best summed up by the great philosophical tract of our time: Conan the Barbarian:

    Khitan General: My fear is that my sons will never understand me… Hao! Dai ye! We won again! [Cheers] This is good. But what is best in life?
    Khitan Warrior: The open steppe, a fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
    Khitan General: Wrong! Conan, what is best in life?
    Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!
    Khitan General: [Cheers]…That is good.

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