This I Believe

Tiffani - Acworth, Georgia
Entered on July 2, 2007

Square Peg – An Essay on the American Dream

I have spent the last three decades being a square peg. Sometimes oiling myself up or sanding the corners just enough to get lodged into a round hole – only to pop like a champagne cork when the underlying pressure built up too much. I’ve struggled and cried and pleaded and prayed and given up only to start all over again. I was passable at best when I was trying and a miserable failure when I wasn’t. I have at various times resigned that if I am going to subject myself to an over bearing regime of “normalcy”, I would at least be good at it. I’ve tried dressing the part, acting the part, but have never been able to fill the role. I’ve felt stupid for falling prey to ignorant ideologies. Stupid for passing those ideologies on to impressionable children. Hateful of who I’ve become.

I object to a life in which I find myself deeply entrenched and guilty of perpetuating. Possessions superfluous of necessity. Waste of time, waste of resources. Celebrations of ignorance. “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Just like others, I have allowed myself to step aside and question rhetorically “who am I to change?”. After all, this is the American Dream.

We have a television in nearly every room of our house. We have gaming systems attached to three of them. We own motorcycles. A boat. A sports car. A truck that gets 19 miles to the gallon on a good day. We have bicycles, push scooters, electric scooters, skateboards, rollerblades we don’t use, toys we don’t play with, books we don’t read, clothes we don’t wear and a house we can’t keep clean. We take our children on vacations where they learn the curriculum of capitalist propaganda. We are teaching our children that this is what life is about – this is the American Dream. When asked, “Why?”, we reply, “Because we can”.

I don’t know what life is about. But I do know that life is not about perpetuating this popular but poorly conceived notion of the American Dream where enough is never enough. A dream where household strife is as common as dirty laundry. Where mothers drown their babes. Where fathers murder their entire family in cold blood. Where children are mass murderers. A dream that leads to the demise of all who seek – not only for themselves, but for their children and for the whole of society. Nearly 200 years ago, Charles Willson Peale said that “Harmony in family life is an essential requirement for social harmony”. Today, we wonder why our legislature is corrupt and why the judiciary hands down decisions so obviously lacking moral integrity. Why? Because children grow up and become legislators, educators, and parents who perpetuate to their progeny the notion of this bastardized American Dream.

I don’t want our children to grow up thinking that life must be lived in stark white Keds and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. I want them to grow up with the confidence to enjoy life as a square peg.