Denying difficulty, we never learn that difficulty can be creative and fruitful. This national habit of denial of difficulty does not foster a climate in which maturity can grow. It encourages us all to be children for our whole lives, to be self-deceitful and surface-oriented, skimming along on the slick bubble of the dream, which is terribly fragile exactly because it leaves out the realistic acceptance of life’s often drastic actualities. It is no wonder that there is so much suffering in our culture, despite our wealth and power. So many of us seem not to know how to face life as it really is. And therefore we find it very difficult to grow up.
That’s the downside of the American dream, and it is a very serious one. But the American dream is also wonderful. The dream keeps us innocent, flexible, and energetic, qualities that have produced our immense national success. Because of the dream, we believe that freedom, democracy, and fair-mindedness are always possible, and we are willing to sacrifice to protect them. Because of the dream, we are inspired by wild and immense spaces untouched by human hands, and we want to preserve such spaces—our forests, mountains, and skies. This hopeful, energetic, almost naive American spirit provides a wonderful basis for a marvelous and open sort of maturity, which is the potential we have. But we haven’t realized it yet.