American dream, American reality

By Story of America Team

Paul PerroneWhat is living the American Dream?

Is it owning 2 cars, having 2.5 kids, and owning a home (with a mortgage)? Or is it enjoying your job assuming you are lucky enough to have one and having enough free time to visit all of the places you would like to see and be able to meet all of the people you would like to meet? For me it would be all of the above.

I am lucky enough to have a good paying job while working many hours a week. I am self-employed and attempting to get affordable health insurance without the bargaining power of a union or even a large group is a joke. This concerns me greatly. I fear that one accident or one serious illness will destroy any security I have built up all of these years. I know i am far from alone in these concerns.  I am married with 2 children and one on the way. Future college costs are also a great concern. Next year I will put money into a college fund for my 3 children which I hope does not get squandered my the market and is there for when my children need it.

Since I bought my home during the peak I have a relatively large mortgage, and even though I was one of the lucky 15% that made it through the first HAMP program initiated by Obama and my monthly payment dropped, I am still underwater on my mortgage but I work hard to fulfill the obligation I undertook when I purchased this home. Most home repairs or upgrades I handle myself. I am taking advantage of a 30% tax credit this year to install a high efficiency heating and A/C system. I will be broke for some time after this but the savings should hopefully make future years easier on the wallet. If only our politicians understood the same value of investments in infrastructure.

This year was the first in many that we were able to take a small vacation to Florida. We have a friend that offered her home to us for the week and we spent the week visiting the various kid-friendly attractions avoiding the last of the cold, March New York weather. I honestly wish I had more time to be politically active, even run for office, but I cannot currently afford to take time off from work. Again being self-employed does not offer paid sick, vacation or personal time, but I actually feel a sense of greater job security having taken the initiative to take charge of my employment.

I feel that America should offer its citizens affordable healthcare similar to many other industrialized nations. No American should be punished for getting sick or having an accident. Too many people lose everything they worked their whole lives because the broken healthcare system allows them to fall through the cracks. Our infrastructure is crumbling and while the middle class pays a large percentage of their income towards taxes the top 2% and corporations manage to skirt this responsibility.

I have worked hard to get where I am, I watch my finances, I plan for the future as much as possible and I try to stay healthy. It was part luck that I chose a profession that didn’t get downsized during the recession, but I have also made sure that I always had a fallback position should I suddenly lose my current position. I feel I have a weak grasp on the American dream, and I am grateful for what I have, but I also feel that the slightest shift of the wind could blow that dream right out of my grasp.

What is America to me?

My earliest memories of politicians speaking of America told me that America was a “Melting pot”. I grew up living with this belief and still do. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and New York City is a vast melting pot of all cultures and types of people. Obviously not all of America looks this way though, and I get the sense that as time progresses some people regress and wish to create a homogenous culture that excludes anyone “different” from themselves. Granted, I would like to create a place that excludes those people that wish to only remain homogenous, and let them live in their own little colony of similars so that I do not have to deal with their bigotry.

The election of a black President has brought to the surface suppressed bigotry in a select group of Americans. I have even witnessed this within my own family. While growing up in Brooklyn, my mother always showed respects towards people of all races, creeds, nationalities, etc. When I started dating she told me that she didn’t care what they looked like, as long as they treated me good. I held her in such high esteem for this upbringing.

After I went to college, she moved to upstate NY with her new husband, secluded from the rest of the world in the middle of the Catskill mountains. Her only source of news is the local paper or satellite TV and I know her husband only watches FOX news and hates Obama, and this has certainly influenced her thinking. She is still my mom and I love her but her environment seems to have changed her and recently she made an off-color comment about the Obama family and I was really taken aback that this woman who raised me to be so tolerant of all people could make such a remark. I chided her for her remark and avoided political talk so that we may enjoy each others’ company.

So what is America? I wish I had a good analogy, but I see it as three groups:

  • The educated/informed
  • The ignorant/misinformed
  • Those overly concerned with pop culture fashion, trends and nothing else.

The last group scares me the most because as this group grows it signals the end of our civilization.

I am grateful for social media for encouraging much more political involvement with all segments of the population. The internet can promote the growth of both the first and second groups depending on the intent of the user, but at least we have the ability to learn the truth should we really value it.