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Aufgabe I

Aufgaben
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1.
Outline what DeGrazia says about Detroit and the American Dream.
2.
Analyze the means the author uses to convince the reader of his position.
3.
You are taking part in the international youth project "Aspects of Life and Culture in the US." For the project website, write an article in which you discuss whether the concept of the American Dream is a recipe for success. Refer to DeGrazia's article and to materials dealt with in class.
#article#zentraleraufgabenpool#outline#americandream#analysis
Material 1
$\;$

Emilio DeGrazia, "Our American Nightmare: Detroit" (2013)

Detroit used to be one of America's richest cities, but on July 18, 2013, it filed for bankruptcy[1]. In an online article Emilio DeGrazia comments on Detroit and the American Dream. At the beginning of his article he uses a quote from a book called Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff.
$\;$
"Once the nation’s richest big city, Detroit is now its poorest. It is the country’s illiteracy and dropout capital, where children must leave their books at school and bring toilet paper from home…there are firemen with no boots, cops with no cars, teachers with no pencils, city council members with telephones tapped by the FBI, and too many grandmothers with no tears left to give.” […]
5
So how did Detroit go so wrong so fast? Why did entire neighborhoods collapse? Why did people trash and burn their own groceries, houses and neighborhoods? Why would a city commit suicide? […]
I’ll risk being denounced[2] as anti-American here by suggesting that the American Dream has a tragic flaw that has made a nightmare of Detroit. Central to this American Dream narrative[3] we are routinely fed at school, at work, and through the media is that America is the land of boundless opportunity. We keep re-
10
peating the myth that everyone can succeed here if they work hard enough. That they can do it on their own. That losers are losers because they’re little engines that didn’t try hard enough.
Tell that silly tale to a single mother with three kids and no money to pay the rent or heat. Tell it to an unemployed father whose unemployed son wanders the streets, angry and depressed. Tell it to the teenaged girls who refuse to go to school because they’re afraid of what might happen there. Tell it to the
15
thousands of Detroiters who don’t go to doctors because they have no health insurance, and often no doctor willing to spend ten minutes with them.
Tell them with a straight face[4] that they’ll succeed if they try harder, without asking for help. Convince them they won’t be shamed by asking for help.
That we all should be hard-working little engines is a nice idea, necessary for teachers and parents to
20
repeat as they try to inspire individuals to live up to their potential, and also useful to successful types who feel a need to congratulate themselves. But it is not a credible groundwork for public discourse[5] or public policy. At the core of the American Dream narrative is its tragic flaw, a cancerous radical individualism that expresses itself politically on both the right and left, especially among libertarians[6]. The cancer lurks[7] in one of our favorite words––“freedom”––repeated like a meaningless mantra, drearily by preachers and
25
politicians. The American Dream fiction claims that an individual alone is responsible for his or her fate, and that the individual is “free to choose” this fate. An individual’s failure, a whole city’s failure, is not to be explained in terms of a failing economy, or Wall Street greed, or mismanagement of its major industries, or corrupt politicians, or drug users outside Detroit’s city limits who enable those trapped inside to participate in the city’s alternative and illegal economy. And certainly nobody wants to hear anyone explain Detroit’s
30
problems in terms of race. If black Detroiters fail, it’s all their own fault, and they’re just playing out their victim roles when they ask for help. If they can’t succeed at the American Dream, they’re not good enough. Why don’t they leave us alone? Why don’t they just go away? The American Dream fiction, like the steady diet of melodramas we’re routinely fed by Hollywood, has good guys and bad. The moral of this simplistic[8] story is that those who make it are good, and those who don’t are bad and deserve to lose. What’s wrong
35
with them? It’s this flawed narrative, widespread and profound in the many who live outside our Detroits[9], and invoked[10] by those who do great damage from outside, that makes victims of so many Detroiters. What we as outsiders don’t see is that we’re victims too of the American Dream story we routinely tell ourselves. We have plenty of technical expertise, a lot of knowledge of systems, hoards of wealth, and, I think, a profound need for the gratification that comes from collective response tied to worthwhile purposes.
40
Detroit, its many versions throughout the U.S., will require us to pay and pay and pay for our collective failure to respond.
Quelle: http://tcdailyplanet.net/our-american-nightmare-detroit, Zugriff: 19.10.2016
Annotations


[1] to file for bankruptcy: to ask to be declared officially bankrupt
[2] to denounce sb.: to criticize strongly
[3] narrative: here: myth
[4] with a straight face: seriously, not joking
[5] public discourse: discussion of political and social issues
[6] libertarian: a person who believes in absolute freedom of the individual
[7] to lurk: to wait in secret
[8] simplistic: too simple
[9] Detroits: the plural of Detroit is used as a symbol to refer to all American cities with similar problems
[10] to invoke: here: to repeat constantly
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$\blacktriangleright$  1. Outline statements about Detroit and the American Dream
In the article "Our American Nightmare: Detroit" from 2013, Emilio DeGrazia claims that the American Dream has turned into a nightmare for the citizens of Detroit. He strongly criticizes the concept of the American Dream and actually blames it for the social problems Detroit faces.
Introduction
DeGrazia starts off with highlighting the fact that Detroit used to be a prosperous once. It is now, however, one of the poorest cities in the US and due to that, a lot of problems have emerged. People in Detroit feel rather hopeless and cannot free themselves from their situations by themselves as the American Dream would suggest. If one would listen to the American Dream, the people would just rest on the victim position and would just not be good enough to succeed. However, DeGrazia's message conveys that it is rather easy for someone outside of the American Nightmare in terms of Detroit to judge those who failed to succeed. In addition, those who judge the non-achievers will pay for the collective failure to respond in the end.
Main Part
Detroit
With regard to the American Dream, the author states that the American Dream is to be blamed for the nowadays nightmarish Detroit. He criticizes that America claims to be the land of boundless opportunity and that everyone who would just work hard enough could reach their goals. Those who wouldn't reach their goals would just not work hard enough and it would be the individuals fault. Moreover, DeGrazia claims that the concept of the American Dream ignores the setting that people find themselves in and he lists examples of people apparently not working hard enough to underline his argumentation like a mother of three children who can't pay for heat, or the girls who are afraid to go to school because of horrible things happening there. The American Dream and the idea of the hard-working engine is only something little kids are taught and that successful people use to justify their achievement. It is hence not made for the mainstream. Furthermore, the American Dream focuses on freedom and on the fact that everybody is free to choose his or her own fate. Therefor, everybody is responsible for their very own success. If this success did not follow upon hard work, DeGrazia postulates, only the individual is to blame according to the American Dream - not the settings around it like a failing economy or corrupt politicians for instance. It is this radical individualism that is the central flaw of the American Dream. Thus, the American Dream can be regarded as a misconception since it diverts attention away from the real problems like mismanagement or racism. Furthermore, it makes people believe that those who are successful are good and those who do not make it are bad.
American Dream
In conclusion, Emilio DeGrazia claims that it is not the individual's fault to not being able to live the American Dream and be successful. It is rather the collective perception of the American Dream as a rather simplistic recipe to success.
Conclusion
$\blacktriangleright$  2. Analysis of means author uses to convince reader
In the article "Our American Nightmare" from 2013, the author Emilio DeGrazia conveys his rather critical position of the American Dream. He uses several means and stylistic devices in order to convince the readers from his point of view.
Introduction
The author starts his article with a quotation of a book called Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charles LeDuff in which the current situation of the city is explained: "cops with no cars, teachers with no pencils" (l. 3). LeDuff shares his opinion that detroit has turned from one of the richest cities to now the poorest city of the US. Hence, the quote reflects his argumentation and this is supposed to shock the reader.
Main Part / Means
quotation
DeGrazia also uses a lot of rhetorical questions that structure his article. First, he wonders why Detroit experienced such a vast downfall and why a city would commit suicide (l. 5-6). This is extremely thought-provoking and confronts the reader with the drastic reality, the reader can understand the situation much better. Moreover, he asks the reader "Why don't they leave us alone?" (l. 32), so he is blaming society to having imposed the American Dream upon those who never wanted to be part of it. Only a few sentences later, DeGrazia in turn wonders "What's wrong with them?" (l. 35), with the society to believing in unrealistic concepts of life and success. This frequent use of questions creates curiosity among the readers, they get the readers' attention and they structure the line of argument.
rhetorical questions
Furthermore, he paints a rather negative picture of the American Dream through various different stylistic devices. First of all, he uses a hyperbol and at the same time a personification by saying that a city committed suicide because of the American Dream (l. 6). This exaggeration shows what enormous effects the American Dream had on the city. DeGrazia highlights that by the contrast "the American Dream has a tragic flaw that has made a nightmare of Detroit" (l. 7-8). The metaphor "cancerous radical individualism" (l. 22) stands for the negative connotation of the American Dream, spreading everywhere and causing almost irreversible harm. DeGrazia also uses the simile "steady diet of melodramas" (l. 33) in order to explain that the American Dream is in fact not diversified, it is always the same and not tailored to all the different individuals inhabiting the planet earth. Furthermore, he uses the pars pro toto "Detroits" (l. 35) as a symbol for all the other cities with similar problems, showing that Detroit is not a single cause of failure of the American Dream. To finish his argumentation, DeGrazia personifies the city Detroit once again saying that "[it] will require us to pay" (l. 40) - here, he postulates that humanity itself is guilty for what has happened to Detroit, not the individuals living there.
choice of words and imagery
Emilio DeGrazia criticizes that "hard-working" part of the American Dream suggesting that people cannot have fun and forget how to live over working, with the irony "hard-working little engines" (l. 19). He uses irony at other parts of the article as well. He sets the term "freedom" and "free to choose" (l. 24/26) in quotation marks, meaning that he is ironizing them, deeming them as hypocritical and disagreeing with the opinion that every individual is able to choose a life of success by him- or herself. In addition, the statement "if black Detroiters fail, it's all their own fault" (l. 30) is ironic as well, since it basically says that those individual cannot be held accountable for their very own failure.
In order to emphasize how widespread and diverse the social problems are, the author uses the stylistic devices of enumeration and repition. For example, the enumeration "that they can do it on their own. That losers are losers […]" and "tell that silly tale […]. Tell it to an unemplyed father […]" (l. 10-11 / 12-13) states that not only a single part or group of the population is affected but rather large groups. This shows the hopelessness the people like the single mother of three are facing. The enumeration "an individual's failure, a whole city's failure, […] a failing economy, or Wall Street greed […]" (l. 26-27) explains that according the American Dream, the individual is responsible for its own failure and not the things that DeGrazia lists like corruption or drug dealers. Moreover, the repetition "to pay and pay and pay" (l. 40) in this context means that the failure/dream concept is like a vicious circle, going on forever - that those succeeding in the American Dream will pay for those who fail it.
enumeration / repetition
In conclusion, DeGrazia uses a lot of stylistic means to convince the reader of his argumentation. Not only does he illustrate and clarify his opinion of the American Dream - that it is actually a nightmare - he also criticizes the very concept through those means - that it is concept taught to children and for people who feel the need to prove themselves.
Conclusion
$\blacktriangleright$  3. Write an article
The American Dream - a recipe for success?
You take two cups of hard work, a quarter cup of dedication, three pinches of responsibility, half a cup of good education, … Stir it well, put it in the oven for 30 minutes and that's it! Seems pretty easy to become and be successful, doesn't it? The American Dream suggests that everyone can succeed in life if they only work hard, but is this the reality? Let's take a deeper look into that!
Introduction
The American Dream has long attracted people from all over the world as well as in the US itself. Who could not be affected by the promise of luxury, a fulfilling live, everything people could have ever dreamed of? Back then, some people have gone from rags to riches through hard work, they turned into self-made people, coming to the US with only a few dollars in their pockets. And a lot of people are still willing to work hard and go through hardships to achieve success. Like all those college students who even take great risks in going into huge debts just to get a degree. Moreover, the American Dream preaches the individual's freedom in society and equal opportunities - thus, poverty and lack of education didn't stop people from becoming successful before, just think about Steven Spielberg, who made great movies, a lot of them even without having a university degree.
In addition, this concept of success has always given people hope, strength and motivation to follow their dreams no matter what. Hence, the concept fulfills the purpose of a catalysator: if you are optimistic about something, you are able to get through a progress much faster and achieve your goal in the end. If you would break it down to the basics, it all comes down to the attitude of people. You need dedication, courage, perseverance, audacity and determination among others to succeed in life.
The best example for this is Billy Elliott. He embodies the idea that anyone can achieve anything regardless of their socio-economic background - and Billy's setting or surrounding is more than unpromising with no mother and a father and brother who don't support him. All that Billy receives from his dysfunctional family is abuse and negligence which does play a role in motivating him to follow his dreams and prove them wrong. Moreover, social pressures along with a severely damaged ego provided a long list of obstacles that Billy has to overcome in order to reach his dream. And even though he is ridiculed and proclaimed homosexual, Billy's natural determination and nurturing from his ballet teacher made his pursue successful.
It is thus understandable, why so many people still believe in the American Dream and why some of them actually achieve it.
Pros
  • self-made people
  • individual's freedom in society
  • equal opportunities
  • optimism and progress
  • $\rightarrow$ Billy Elliott
As nice as this recipe for success sounds, it is not that simple to follow. Some individuals are not able to overcome certain obstacles they find on their way. Hence, the term "unlimited opportunities" is in fact rather hypocritical - your goals will be limited, and if you do not fulfill certain conditions, you will fail. It didn't matter for instance for slaves how hard they worked, only a few of them ever gained real freedom. Thus, some population groups have been categorically excluded from the American Dream.
Moreover, people who are not willing to take up the risks of a failure are sometimes seen as outsiders. Their failure is sometimes even seen as a result of individual shortcomings. Emilio DeGrazia explains this phenomenon in his article "Our American Nightmare: Detroit". He states that the American Dream has made a nightmare out of Detroit and that the American Dream makes fun of for example a single mother of three. According to the American Dream, people who fail to succeed wouldn't work hard enough, ignoring the setting these people are sometimes trapped in, like unemployment or illness. Moreover, the American Dream reduces people to working engines stripped off emotions and humanity. According to DeGrazia, that idea only focuses on the individual itself, it blames the individual if he or she is not successful - not the industry or a failing economy. Hence, people who do not follow the specific American Dream are outsiders for those who do and it is quite easy for them to blame those poor individuals if they themselves are in a superiour position.
That the American Dream has turned more often than not into a superficial wish for wealth and status can be seen in "The Great Gatsby". The American Dream was originally about discovery, individualism and the pursuit of happiness. However, easy money and relaxed social values as seen in the novel have corrupted this dream. Gatsby's dream of loving Daisy is ruined by the difference in their respective social statuses, his resorting to crime to make enough money to impress her and the rampant materialism that characterizes her lifestyle. This instills her with a kind of idealized perfection that she neither deserves nor possesses. Thus, the dream of Gatsby is ruined by the unworthiness of its object. However, he is holding on to a dream of the past, where their dreams did have a value. Gatsby has experienced the rags-to-riches-story and has somehow gained Daisy as an ultimate status symbol, however, he did not achieve it through hard work but through crime. Furthermore, both Myrtle and George, who work hard in order to live a better lifestyle eventually (George in his garage and Myrtle through her affair with Tom) and Gatsby himself end up dying - all the strivers of the American Dream in "The Great Gatsby" cannot live up to the American Dream. Thus, all the hard work and what they all selfishly go through seems empty and pointless and in vain.
The American Dream doesn't sound so nice and fancy after all now - giving up your moral values and surrendering to crime and being blamed if you don't make it - not really worth fighting for.
Cons
  • obstacles
  • risk of failure / outsiders
  • superficial wish for wealth and status
  • social selfishness
  • $\rightarrow$ Emilio DeGrazia
  • $\rightarrow$ The Great Gatsby
Considering all of these aspects, the American Dream has both its benefits and downsides. If you find yourself in the right setting - meaning a good education, people who support you, a strong work ethic and certain values like honesty and responsibility - there is literally no reason why the American Dream should not work out for you. However, it is questionable whether it is worth it to attain the American Dream, if you have to latch on to criminal or illegal resources in order to make money, if the American Dream is just seen as a means to make a ton of money in this context.
Conclusion
#thegreatgatsby
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