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American Dream: Back to Basics

It's been two years since 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death by a frenzied crowd of Black Friday shoppers at a Long Island Walmart. The stampede is a twisted symbol of what's become of the American Dream: We'll apparently stop at nothing in the quest for more stuff.

But that wasn't the holy grail that James Truslow Adams had in mind when he first coined the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. Instead he believed in "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone … It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

Adams wrote that as the Great Depression was beginning to swallow many Americans' dreams -- and their fortunes. Perhaps that time of financial instability helped him to see something beyond just the grasping for wealth.

- Tara Lohan, "Downsize Nation: Welcome to the New, Smaller American Dream," Alternet, December 8, 2010 
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