The misconception of life in America

I believe one of the most commonly misconceived notions of life in the United States is that Americans are rich.  Yes, rich, so rich that we don’t have to worry about money.  Nope, none at all.  Money grows on trees in the US.

Where does this misconception come from?  The United States is proud of its beliefs of freedom and opportunities.  “America, the land of the free…” as the song goes.  And because we are given opportunities, the American Dream is born: to go from rags to riches.  But just because these opportunities are available, it doesn’t mean that everyone is rich.

My mom went to visit family in Thailand and Laos.  My mom’s family asked for everything from her, even the underwear that she was wearing.  To them, it was as if my mom could replace whatever she gave away when she got home because she was “rich.”

I visited a forum where people were discussing about Ardi Rizal, the Indonesian toddler who smoked 40 cigarettes a day.  People from foreign countries, especially Europe, commented that Americans would never understand why a father could give his 2-yr-old a cigarette because we have never seen the “poor.”  Americans don’t know anything about poverty. Oh yes, because in America, poverty doesn’t exist.  It isn’t even in our English dictionary.

America, like everywhere else, is not immune to poverty.  Those who do not live here do not know what a struggle it is to strive for the American Dream.  And those of us, who have established ourselves a decent life here in America, still stress about money.  Why?  Because there are bills, bills, and more bills.

A Hmong couple came to the United States on temporary working visas.  After a mere 6 months, they flew back to Laos.  The American life wasn’t what they thought it would be.  Despite better living conditions, the couple didn’t like the idea of bills.  Rent/mortgage, electricity bill, gas bill, water/garbage bill, car payments, car insurance, groceries, etc.  Back in their homeland, they owned their own house (because they built it).  They farmed and raised their own livestock (no need to go grocery shopping).  They fetched water from a nearby stream or river.  Their life was so much simpler, even though they didn’t have a lot.  And best of all, there were no bills to stress them out.

It’s amazing that so many people can be ignorant.  We are not all fat, White, rich Americans, lined up in the dozens at McDonald’s during every meal.  Not everyone is rich.  Not everyone is lazy.  Not everyone own a home in the suburbs with their perfect spouse, perfect children, and perfect dog.  Not everyone live in big cities and wear designer clothing.  The majority of us are just regular people, working hard to achieve the American Dream… or a bit of it.