When life has killed the American dream

Jordan J. Ballor

When I talk about my time growing up in Los Angeles with my mother, I often describe her motivations for going to Hollywood like this: “She wanted to be a movie star…which means she was a waitress.”

That’s a pretty common experience in an industry as competitive and grinding as film. But increasingly these kinds of challenges are faced by women in less glamorous and more mainstream industries. As a recent BusinessWeek piece put it, “You Can Have Any Job You Want, as Long as It’s Waitress.”

Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a waitress. Indeed, there’s something deeply meaningful in the service rendered by those whose hands provide others with material sustenance. In a stunningly moving interpretation of the prophecy of the sheep and the goats, Lester DeKoster describes how Christ “waits in the hungry man or woman or child, longing to be served.” And those who satiate that hunger include those who work in restaurants.

It’s just that you don’t usually go to Syracuse University and study political science in order to wait tables. That’s the reality that Victoria Honard is living, though: “There are two ways of looking at it. I could be extremely frustrated and be bitter, or I can make the most of it, and I’m trying to take the latter approach.”

But as young womens’ attempts to enter the professional workforce in their preferred fields are increasingly foiled, there is a more serious risk of long-term disaffection, disappointment, and disillusionment, a phenomenon already well underway in Greece, for instance. What will happen when life kills the American dream?

The current socio-political system is increasingly not working for those who work hard and smart to achieve. That will mean the need for a change, hopefully for the better, for a system that works for the people, not against them.

YouTube Preview Image

From Acton PowerBlog. Image:  from Sue’s News. Video: Anne Hathaway, “I Dreamed A Dream,” Les Misérables (2012).

Print Friendly

About Acton Institute

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is named after the great English historian, Lord John Acton (1834-1902). Inspired by his work on the relation between liberty and morality, the Acton Institute seeks to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing. To that end, the Institute engages in research, publishing, documentary film production, engagement with the media, and organizes seminars aimed at educating religious leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, university professors, and academic researchers. Acton promotes sound economic thinking and an awareness of the moral underpinnings necessary for a free society.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X