Opinion: The Collapse of the American dream

Sarahbeth Caplin

Sarabeth Caplin

Sarahbeth Caplin is a senior English major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Few little girls daydream of growing up to become a spoiled rich man’s mistress. I hope that very few little boys dream of becoming the rich, spoiled men who exploit the mistresses in the name of living the “good life.” Sadly, these young lives are being shaped by the poisonous new American dream: a religion of gluttony and idolatry.

The American dream has shaped the lives of untold billions, and it’s nothing new. Perhaps it was once considered a mark of personal accomplishment that an average citizen could defy the odds stacked against him and pave his own way in society by building a career from the ground up. Today, the American dream has taken a new form. Anyone can become a star if they have enough money, not so much talent. Anyone can gain 15 minutes of undeserved fame by making fools of themselves in front of their computers. Why have our expectations for success sunk so low?

It makes me wonder why I’m wasting so much of my time and money on a college degree when so many are cashing in millions based on attention-whoring antics and sex tapes. We hear about people who do these things all the time, and we amuse ourselves by giving them attention, but deep down, do we really respect them? Do we really believe they are doing anything meaningful with their lives?

The so-called “good life” may seem enviable, but in reality, it is a sham. I don’t believe that all the rich men who live in mansions squander their earnings on drugs and hang out with porn stars are truly happy. I certainly don’t believe that the women who allow themselves to be used by them have a healthy sense of self-worth. The simultaneous craving for money and fame has turned the so-called American dream into something selfish and wasteful. The worst part is, the entertainment these “stars” provide has exposed where our priorities truly lie. A few days ago, while watching CNN, the fact that Charlie Sheen got fired was the biggest headline, and the less significant notification that there have been more civilian deaths in Iraq was scrolling underneath it. Priorities for the win!

We cannot wrap our identities in tangible things and expect to find success. Money doesn’t last forever, drugs fry your brain and our bodies won’t always be as fit as they are now. These things are merely smoke screens to mask a bigger problem: the emptiness and depravity that is the natural side effect of living in a fallen world.

The truth is, we all are worth something, and money has nothing to do with that worth. We have the ability to live our lives for a greater good, for more than just ourselves. To quote Russell Crowe in Gladiator, I believe that “what we do in life echoes in eternity.” One day we will have to answer for the all the choices that we made while living on this earth.