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
. 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.” […]
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 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 we are routinely fed at school, at work, and through the media is that America is the land of boundless opportunity. We keep re-
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
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 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
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 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. The cancer lurks in one of our favorite words––“freedom”––repeated like a meaningless mantra, drearily by preachers and
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
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 story is that those who make it are good, and those who don’t are bad and deserve to lose. What’s wrong
It’s this flawed narrative, widespread and profound in the many who live outside our Detroits, and invoked 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.
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
 to file for bankruptcy: to ask to be declared officially bankrupt
 to denounce sb.: to criticize strongly
 narrative: here: myth
 with a straight face: seriously, not joking
 public discourse: discussion of political and social issues
 libertarian: a person who believes in absolute freedom of the individual
 to lurk: to wait in secret
 simplistic: too simple
 Detroits: the plural of Detroit is used as a symbol to refer to all American cities with similar problems
 to invoke: here: to repeat constantly