Documentary: Deaths in Despair: The End of the American Dream

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A while back, I wrote an essay on the American Dream and how it has changed over the past half decade to a point where it has become diverse in many ways, shape and form. In theory one can achieve the dream through hard work. In praxis, however, it is a totally different league. And especially within the last decade, this American Dream has become more and more materialistic, divided based on money, power and even social, ethnical and cultural backgrounds, and especially since Donald Trump has taken over, more dysfunctional than at any time in American history.

No wonder why these dystopian variants are leading to the breakdown of families and friendships, the rise in violence and in many cases, as we can see in this documentary below, the rise in the rate of suicides. Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, and his wife, fellow Princeton Prof. Anne Case, have traveled together with Wall Street Journal’s Jason Belini from coast to coast to find out what is leading to the disappearance of the American Dream, and how it is impacting other countries in many ways, shape and form. In this 10-minute documentary, produced by Moving Upstream, the three take a look at this and whether suicide and other social pathologies are causing this almost seven-decade long dream to become a memory.

Watch this clip and have a look at the questions you can discuss below. For the American expatriates residing overseas, like yours truly, this is definitely worth watching and discussing for elements of the American Dream are impacting other countries, including those you are living in.

 

 

  1. What has changed in the American Dream over the past decades?
  2. What variants could benefit keeping the American Dream alive?
  3. Aside from the suicide rate, what variants are contributing to the death of the American Dream? 
  4. If there was a luxury that you had growing up as a child (be it 30 years ago or more) that you miss in today’s society, what would it be and why?
  5. If you were the president of the US and had to look at the problems facing America, especially in this clip, what would you do to make the lives of Americans better and help them fulfill their happiness?
  6. How is the American Dream affecting other countries? 
  7. How is social media affecting American society?
  8. Is it true that the high rate of suicide in the US is negatively affecting the American Dream? If not, what other factors are contributing to its demise? 

 

Fl Fi USA

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A Split’s a Loss: At Look at the Mid-Term Elections from an Expat’s Point of View

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I would like to open my analysis with a comment that was made in the film “Look Who’s Back,” a German satire film released in 2015. In one of the final scenes in the film, when the character Adolf Hitler (the reborn version, played by Oliver Masucci) is shot by the person who had discovered him and traveled with him throughout Germany, Fabian Swatziki (played by Fabian Busch) only to re-emerge as if he was unstoppable. The comment is as follows:

“I cannot be defeated because the people supported me. If I’m a monster then so is the public because they elected me.”

When waking up this morning to realize that the prophesies of the Democrats taking over the entire Congress- the House of Representatives and Senate- failed because of a split in control, the first thought came to mind was that film, the rise of the far right, the inability to stop it and this particular comment.  Anger, defeat and confusion followed. The first question that came to mind was why is it that despite several firsts  (first Muslims, Native Americans, homosexuals and women being elected to the House and Senate) that Donald Trump succeeded?

Let’s look at how politics work in Washington briefly and why this mid-term was so important. When a proposal for a law is introduced, it first goes to the House. If approved, then it goes to the Senate. If the green light is given, the president can sign or veto the bill. The Democrats managed to regain the majority of the House but lost out on the chance to claim the Senate, while the Republicans extended its majority by three more seats. While in theory, the House can stop every bill that Trump introduces, while at the same carry out investigations into his corruptive schemes he had with Russia in 2016 and other issues, this “split” in Washington is in fact a victory, for Trump and his Republicans. In other words, the Democrats lost the mid-terms.

The fact that the blue-wave never amounted to anything means that Trump can still control the way America is run as is. He has a stronger majority in the Senate, which can enable him to appoint people to special posts, like the Supreme Court, to his own liking. He has circumvented laws and other legal processes in order to shove his agenda down the throats of his opponents, especially including his executive orders, which he has carried out at least 100 times since having taken office in January 2017. He already has the backing of the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, thanks to his nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, with a third one surely to happen before his term is done, should either Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Clarence Thomas or both be unable to continue. He has the support of Vladimir Putin and Kim Il Jung, two adversaries who would like to see the western democracy annihilated.  Then there is the American people- mostly white Christians coming from rural settings with little educational experience or even a sense of cultural tolerance- the likes of Homer Simpson, whom Trump is still getting a solid backing versus the city-slickers and coastal areas folks who are used to the luxuries of multicultural diversity, public transport and global awareness, which has resulted in a division of the country into two America’s- a division which has never been seen before in our time.

It was hoped that with a majority in both the House and the Senate, Trump would have been declawed and defanged- forced into a role as a lame duck. Better would have been the prospects of impeaching him and removing him from office. But now, the best but also the most dangerous solution is eengaging in bi-partisan politics, which working together with the Democrats would not fit the profile of the narccist the president is. That concept is foreign in his vocabulary because Trump has never appreciated them as much as as he has loathed liberal and mainstream media, such as public radio, CNN and NBC. The cooperation may work temporarily but it will fail before the end of 2019, resulting in the country being at a complete standstill, while breaking apart at the seams.

So the final question is what is there to be done between now and 2020? The Democrats have lost, despite regaining the House. Trump is being Trump, although he has attempted to “clean house,” which includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions leaving. Voters are claiming victory, yet they are still divided. Countries like Germany and France are forging their own alliances with other countries in Europe and elsewhere to serve as a counter-weight to America. And we as expatriates are getting footed the bill for our own contributions for voting for the right cause, which is unity, freedom, cooperation and lastly (but most importantly), democracy. This split is a loss for America for it has become more divided than ever, thus setting the stage for the fall, just like with other empires  that happened before us- the Soviet Union, Great Britain and its empire, Germany under Hitler, but most importantly, the Roman Empire.  With each day passing between now and 2020, we will see America and its influence wane, each American leaving the country or renouncing their citizenship, and everything American that we find here in Europe to disappear, bit by bit.

By the time 2020 rolls around with the presidential elections, we may not see much of America left to celebrate or even support. And a filled-out, mail-in ballot may become worthless in the end.  From my standpoint, it will be that key factor that will force me to turn my back on the country I was born and raised, and had lots of great memories growing up.  We really don’t know what will happen or what we can do at this point. All we can do is watch and pray, hoping for the best but planning for the worse.

 

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Promotional Campaign for the 2018 Mid-Term Elections

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In light of the Mid-term Elections in the United States, which takes place on November 6th, I’ve produced a video about the state of the US from an American expatriate’s point of view, asking the American people both here and abroad: Is this the America we want?

There are two options: One can sit out and allow for events to happen, or one can take the extra hour and vote. If you don’t like what you see in the US and its standing in the world, then my only advice is this……

VOTE!

 

Fl Fi USA

We’re Fine. It’s You We’re Worried About- Info-prying and the attempt to Make America Conform Again

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In a democracy, there is no such thing as conformity. We can unite but have different opinions and ideas on how to solve problems, as long as we respect them, and especially as long as they are appropriate in today’s situation.  Democracy ends when we are forced to conform to the practices that are considered harmful to oneself and those affected.  America has never been the democratic state that it was 50 years ago, nor has it never been what it should be- a country where everyone, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic background or even now in Trump’s America, political affiliation, has the right to vote, express themselves freely, and do something for the good of others.  It has become a state of conformity, where if you do not share the opinions and feelings of the other side, even though you do not like them, then you are looked down upon, defamed and shamed in front of others.

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Growing up in a poor family in rural Minnesota, the idea of a “conformed state” had more to do with the type of clothes a person wore, the type of car a person was driving (if the person owned a car at that time), who you were dating, whether or not you were a macho-man, what types of jobs your parents had and the religious denomination you you were associated with, if you were attending church regularly on a Sunday. America still lives in that conformed state today, despite attempts to include everyone based on race, religion, socio-economic background, opinions on the current events of today, sexual preferences and even preference for certain foods- veering away from meat products and embracing vegetarianism and veganism. But given the situation we have been working with since Trump won the elections in November 2016, we are rolling back the prejudices against these minorities and engaging in McCarthyism 2.0, namely scrutinizing the people based on political affiliation. Gone away are the political discussions that were once constructive and meaningful, we are engaging in “throat-cutting” scare-tactics, where any opinion you say about the problems in the US can be used against you with physical force, social networking force (including the use of facebook and twitter), or through naming and shaming in public.

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Yet there is a new weapon that is being used in American society that my wife, daughter and I noticed during our road trip through the Midwest this past summer, and that is “Info-Prying.” Info-prying is the process of interrogating foreigners, especially those living in Europe, as to finding out what exactly is going on outside the US, in hopes to extract information and start a political discussion. “Info-Prying” is being done by three different parties: 1. Those who felt misinterpreted by the media because of Trump’s constant attacks and want to know the real truth, 2. Those who want a confirmation of Trump’s claims and want to pick a fight to support their claims, and 3. Those who really want a conversation about the problems facing America under Trump.  Sadly, based on the observations, the majority of Americans belong to either points 1 and 2, and there is a dwindling minority belonging to number 3.

Why is that, exactly? Think about that for a minute.

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One of the interpretations that can be quickly explained is Trump’s conditioning of the American public into believing everything he says. However, Trump’s supporters still belong in the minority. Since having taken office in January 2017, an average of only 42% of Americans support the president and his rather ubiquitous policies, whereas 56% of the public would like to see him gone sooner than later. Still when asking around the neighborhood to find out whether or not they are safe living in peaceful co-existence between a Democrat and a Republican, most will agree that the answer to that question is “no.”  Reason: because whenever a person states an opinion with a Trump supporter, it is met with violence.  And while it is easy to “unfriend” or delete someone from a facebook network, meeting that person with physical violence and with guns can have an everlasting effect on the person stating the facts.  Families have fallen apart because of the effects of Trump’s rhetoric in pitting family members against each other. Best friends have because strangers because of their own political opinions. And one out of ten Americans have admitted leaving the country should Trump be re-elected; just as many as the rate of American expatriates, including myself, who are considering ditching their American passports, once and for all.

 

With all these facts in mind, we had to be very careful as to what we said to those who tried to “info-pry” us about the problems in Europe, for relations between the US and Europe have been frigid since Trump took over in January 2017. The information on the invasion of immigrants in Europe and how they were committing vast amounts of crime, as broadcasted by Breitbart and other right-wing networks were highly over-exaggerated. Despite the infamous attacks during the New Year’s celebrations in Cologne and Hamburg in 2015, combined with the events in Chemnitz this year and trucks being used as weapons, these incidents were only arbitrary and despite measures to curb this type of violence, which includes deporting those with a criminal record and having barriers set up to keep vehicles out of pedestrian areas, the crime rate in Europe is lower among immigrants than the natives who were born there. In fact, most of the crimes committed by the immigrants have been petty- whether they are burglaries, theft or fake IDs. We do have incidents involving those who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, but they are fewer than what was reported by Breitbart . So in other words, Europe is not as black as what the media says. It is going far right, which is a scary trend, but that is because of home-grown fears that the immigrants will dominate the scene with their own language instead of adopting the German language, let alone the lingua franca language in English and French. Politicians from the Social Democrats, to the Greens and to even the Conservative Christian Democrats know the problems and are working to integrate those who want to live in Europe, even if it’s for a while. This integration comes with the lesson of understanding cultures and social backgrounds, which Europe has long profited from, learning the lessons from World War II and the Cold War.

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So to sum up the answer of whether Europe is going to be run over, becoming an Islamic State, as some of the info-pryers had tried to get out of us, the answer is “no.” We are doing fine. We know the problems that are facing Europe with the immigrants, but that is something we can handle.

The problem is how Americans are doing at home. That is what nine out of ten Europeans are concerned about. How can we deal with “info-pryers” who are modestly wanting answers but most of them want to pick a fight and support Trump?

Americans have a lot of issues to deal with at home, all of them are home-grown and growing every year. Yet they seem to ignore thees problems at home and try to find problems outside the country, where they are either non-existent or those where they can be solved by those who know the problem and don’t need any American advice.

Therefore, our only answers that came out to those who tried to pry open the can full of issues in Europe: “We’re doing fine. It is you guys we are worried about. We’re worried that your own problems are mounting and in the end, cannot be handled anymore.”  While one person from the group, who asked about Europe’s problems, eventually agreed to the fact that America does have a big problem- bigger than Europe’s own set, others turned a blind eye saying America is great, thanks to Trump. But little do they realize, America’s Roman Empire is crumbling every year, bit by bit, and if America is to be great again, it needs to conform to the changing trends outside its realm in order for any generation to benefit what American stood for, over a half century ago, which is democracy, openness, pursuit of happiness, and embracing change, but keeping to these principles, which has been accepted by Europe and other countries.

The America we know right now isn’t that America. It’s too materialistic, too fanatical and too invasive. Scale back and take care of yourselves first, because we are doing fine. When your house is in order and the country is with the program regarding even the three most important items facing our planet: the environment, human rights and modernizing the infrastructure, we can talk. Right now, info-pryers don’t have a place in our lives and the lives of other people we know personally.  Thank you.

 

Fl Fi USA

 

 

 

The Art of Forgiveness and Friendship

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I would like to start this journey with a quote by Ritu Ghadourey about forgiving others for hurtful actions: A broken friendship that is mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was. 

As I entered the US for the first time since 2015, I noticed right away how deeply divided the country was (and still is)- more so than when Barack Obama was president. The first impression of this was how the media was involving itself. Once toted as the main source of information to allow us to think about the events, talk about it and even take action, America’s media today  is making the decisions for us, without even allowing us to think of the reasons for the actions taken by President Trump, his members of the Oval Office and the special investigations councillor Robert Mueller, who is trying to dig dirt and undermine the president. With each character coming on screen to muckrake on both sides, one has to wonder if this is just another Hollywood film that is screaming to be booed and jeered. And with each repetitive claim by the president that there was no collusion between him and Russian president Vladimir Putin, how many times will he say it (even when jumping up and down on the trampoline) until we all figure out that he’s indeed a liar and a crook.

We do know however, that despite my detestation of watching Trump and all his cronies on TV while having breakfast, we do have one variant that is working against us: With each action committed on both sides of the aisle, regardless of hate crimes, bashing media outlets, making false statements and the like, we are hurting ourselves and others, to a point where we may never talk to our neighbors, friends and family members ever again. Our belief in the media is deceiving ouselves and not allowing us time to think about the issues at hand.  And our actions towards others is making it difficult for us to come to terms with the people we hurt the most.

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Inspite of this however, I learned most recently that even the most painful actions done onto others can be forgiven, if one is willing to reach out and ask for it. In some cases, it can forge friendships that are better than the last one. I have a couple examples which show that forgiveness can be sought and new friendships created.

A few months ago, a friend of mine from Arizona, named Calvin, was approached by a former high school classmate named Jared after a 20+ year absence. Both of them were playing American football at a high school in Tucson; yet Calvin, who was too skinny to play lineman, was bullied by Jared and several other players, who were three times his size and thought he was gay.  One day, Jared had the cheek to pee in Calvin’s sports locker. Upset that he was being treated unfairly and was not getting enough support by the coaches, Calvin quit the team and eventually changed schools, where he ran in cross country and excelled in fine arts in Casa Grande, graduating with honors and eventually moving onto college at the University of Minnesota and later into teaching in Osnabrück in Germany.  We met while I was an exchange student and we shared some stories of our time playing football in high school. We both hated the sport as we were “bench-warmers,” which was equally as degrading as being bullied. Jared reached out to him one day in May after Calvin wrote of his experiences of being bullied on facebook, in response to an increase of cyberbullying at his former high school in Tucson. Jared was principal there and had to sit a person, who was robbing others of lunch money down, and tell him what he did to Calvin. He looked him up and reconnected. Then after reading his article posted on facebook, Jared wrote a long letter of apology to Calvin explaining that his lack of self-confidence was the catalyst to doing what he did to him. In response to the letter, Calvin forgave him, explaining that what was done was wrong but it’s nothing compared to what is going on in the present. 

In the present means the days of social networking, cyberbullying, grooming, happy-slapping and the like. Let’s put it this way, as much as I was bullied in high school 25 years ago, I was thankful that the internet did not exist in its present-day form. Otherwise, …….

Calvin’s suggestion to Jared was the same as offering a good starting point: “Together, we can set examples for other kids to understand that what is being done to others, even online, is wrong and not tolerated.”  In other words, the willingness to make peace and work together to ensure that no one else gets bullied  were two giant steps to forging a good friendship and they have since been on good terms. 

Yet sometimes people can hurt each other to a point where they basically break off all ties, even if one was unaware of the actions committed. Sometimes such actions can be the result of the “My way is the highway” mentality. Others have to do with cultural and personal differences between the two people. Normally when ties are cut like that, then it is too late and even impossible to make amends.

That is unless one of them reaches out to ask for peace. This happened to another friend in Kiel, a while back and to this day, he’s figuring out the reason why and finding ways to reforge a friendship with this girl. Her name was Karin and she and Nick were attending college in Berlin in 2014. She was a very nice girl, as Nick described her- a deeply devoted Christian, kind but had that magic that got Nick interested. They had been working together on a project when they suddenly “butted heads” during a dance at one of the assembly halls.  How this happened was not explained but attempts to reconcile even online failed, and they broke off all contact after the project was finished, but not before havig hurt each other verbally, resulting in after-effects that were lasting for months after the break-off. Nick was moving on with his life when Karin suddenly re-appeared on his facebook page, offering peace to him. In response, Nick replied that under the conditions that we’d meet and talk about it would that be considered. Two hours of deep conversations brought forth forgiveness and establishing the building blocks for a restart, despite them having partners and full-time jobs.  Yet this example came with a lot of strings attached, which was the fact that she was not ready to be friends just yet; she needed time as the healer though they are still communcating to this day but not on facebook. Nick is hoping that it will happen someday as it would give them a chance to chat online about their jobs and families and just be friends. Let’s hope that their road to friendship is a smooth one there.

But looking at both examples, one has to ask ourselves how much damage has the United States done to its people and ts allies. The country has alienated its long-time allies of Europe and Canada and embraced Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, although with the third example one can agree with re-establishing ties with Kim to a certain degree. The US has alienated its own people while our president is watching families and friends fight over politics, like it was a wrestling match. And even the media outlets are equally bad with each one having their own “Mean” Gene Okerlund and their sets of wrestlers trash-talking to the audience. No wonder why we have a combination of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Spanish Civil War all at once, when American society is conditioned to think one way or another. To sum up the situation, we’re living in a society where the media has control of the lives of Americans, and Americans can choose who to befriend and who to dump, based on which political alliance they are in, thus polarizing ourselves, our friends, family members and our neighboring countries. A sad devlopment and one that could destroy the fabric of democracy should the trend continue.

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Stern Magazine

Yet inspite of all this, I have learned to separate politics from friendships and family to avoid any inner-strife. But most importantly, to forgive others for their mistakes. Yet it will be a difficult drive to make amends with the  people we hurt the most. While some allies like Canada and Great Britain will be ready to forgive right away,  others like France and Germany will be even more difficult because of the damage inflicted already. But the most difficult will be the ability to trust each other and be willing to work together. That includes rebuilding the trust between the government, the media and the people. I guess it is similar to the example with Karin and Nick. If one person offers peace then it is because the other has the characteristics that is liked (and blessed in Christian terms) and that the person wants to reforge a better relationship than before so that they can work out the bigger problems they are facing. And we have more than enough to go around.

After the third day of listening to politics at a hotel in Pittsburgh, I decided to tune it out because it was a waste of time and energy. I decided that if people want to know more about our situation in Europe in comparison with the US that we would be truthful about it, but ensure that we are not enforcing our opinions onto them but to get them to understand the situation from a neutral person’s point of view.  At the same time, however, I’m taking an advice that was based on the stories that I just presented with Jared and Calvin on one end, but also with Nick and Karin on the other. If we hurt the ones that care for us, regardless of difference and opinion, we apologize and forgive. Forgiveness is free and can forge better friendships than in the past.  And this is what is needed in this day and age as we have bigger issues to handle and little time left to get them done.

And with that comes a pair of quotes to end this topic on how to reforge a friendship through forgiveness:

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Forgiveness is the best form of love. It takes a strong person to say sorry, yet it takes a stronger person to forgive. 

 

Fl Fi USA

 

 

Disclaimer: While these two examples are true stories, for the purpose of protecting their identities, the names of the people mentioned as well as the places where the stories took place have been altered. 

What is an American Dream? Does it really exist?

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This first article is the first of many to come as I embark on a road trip with my wife and daughter and try and answer the question of whether the American Dream still exists or if it is just a faded memory. The idea of a journal had several stories to go along with that. We’ll start off with my absence from the country. On our last visit in 2015, it was during the era of President Barack Obama and despite the States’ best relations with Germany, Europe and the allies, combined with a sound economy and low unemployment, the country was stuck with inner-strife both on social and political levels. Fast forward to this year, and we see a different environment. America is isolating itself, the conflicts have exacerbated and it feels like the country is on the verge of a civil war similar to what happened in Spain. Yet there has to be some bright sides to what is going on, right? That’s why I’m embarking on that journey to understand the logic of my (still) fellow countrymen from an outsider’s point of view and show the readers what I saw.

Another idea came from a presentation a former student colleague did for her student-teaching in Saxony a year ago. She wanted to know from me what the definition of the American Dream is and whether it exists. She teaches English and Geography on the high school level. And while this essay was based on my discussion with her on that topic, I’m hoping that my journey to Trump’s America will provide some light on some topics of concern, which includes our encounters with locals, discussions with family and friends and just simply looking at the landscape for people to see and better understand. And for me, as an American expat having resided in Germany for nearly 20 years, to understand.

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So without further ado, the first entry here starts with this question:

What is an American Dream? Does it really exist?

 

This is one question that is really broad because of different success stories from people with different backgrounds, plus how it has developed since 1945. If one wants a very simple definition of the American Dream, it would be the strive for personal success, which means people grow up in a traditional family with siblings and two cars, who usually go to church on Sundays, involve themselves in extra-curricular activities in school to find their fame,  find their sweetheart in high school whom they later marry, graduate and either go to college or take up a profession, and then repeat the cycle over and over again. But if I was to go by that definition, it would be similar to the question about freedom in America, which was discussed in an episode of Newsstory a few years ago and by today’s standards, the term of American Dream would be considered naive at best.

 A link to a review I did a couple years ago is enclosed here:

 https://flensburgerfiles.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/genre-of-the-week-america-is-not-the-greatest-nation-on-the-face-of-the-earth-any-more-the-newsroom/

  

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the success of the American Dream has not only been based on the materials they possess- be it clothing, cars, music they listen to, movies they watch and friends they have, but also based on the haves, have nots, used to haves, wished they had, wished they would’ve hads, etc., and I’ve seen that the success of the Dream has veered away from striving to become successful as a person to the strive to be associated with a certain group as a way of having a sense of belonging. This especially includes political affiliations for if you are a member of one political party, you alienate the others who are in the other party. If you don’t make the right amount of money to keep up with the Joneses, you are looked down upon as trash. If you cannot conform to the neighborhood, the neighbors will make sure you do with force.  And if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you don’t deserve to be in heaven. All of these senses of belongings started creeping up in the 1990s and have dominated the American scene ever since, especially since September 11, 2001 with the attacks on Washington and New York, which resulted in the lives of 3300 people being lost. Especially when we look at the key elements of money and power, religion and politics they have dominated the dinner tables and classrooms in the States and have destroyed families, marriages and even friendships because whatever opinion you might have, your own individual ideas and thoughts, don’t matter to the others because that’s not what they want in life. If you ask whether the American Dream still exists today as it was 25, 40, or even 50 years ago, in its original form, it no longer does because today’s American is raised to belong instead of raised to be individually successful. And if people look at you differently, they will make note of that either in person or through social media. 

 

Link: https://flensburgerfiles.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/genre-of-the-week-are-you-lost-in-the-world-like-me-by-steve-cutts-and-moby/

 I’m actually happy that social networking never existed during my days in school because  it would never have allowed me to be successful as a person because I was different from most people. I was raised poor with my parents having job-hopped during my time growing up. My father was a teacher before he became a robotics technician by the time I was in my last year in high school. My mom worked in many fields before settling down as a massage therapist and worked with people with developmental disabilities. The community in Minnesota I grew up in, had their typical American status quos where the baby-boomers and the war-generations had established themselves and it was expected that their kids were to follow their footsteps. If they fail or try and veer off in their own direction, they are looked down upon. This happened to me because of my dad’s father (my grandfather) being a successful American football player and sheriff of the county. Since my dad failed to live up to the family name, he tried to get me to make up for that, especially with American football. Didn’t work. The sport wasted my time and I wanted to spend time with other people, travel and take photos, bike and just be me.  I had my own dream of becoming either a teacher or civil engineer and not having much “materialistic” items in the house got me to being creative with things from the nature when growing up. Despite all the bullying and peer pressure I got from my family and peers in school, I somehow bucked the trend and showed others that I could be better than others in things that are not mainstream and require pressure and boos from fans.  But that was with direct confrontation and not what students are doing in school with facebook, twitter and other means of e-communication. Had that piece of media existed, I don’t know what would’ve become of me, to put it diplomatically speaking.

 After high school, I followed the trend in going to college and collecting some very valuable experience, especially through travel and photography, but also through social work. Yet my breakthrough came when I met my college sweetheart who was from Germany and was doing her exchange program at my college. After she left I took her advice and went abroad- something that was absent in the American Dream, if looking at it from a naive person’s perspective- because a true American never lives abroad as everything he/she wants to have is in the States. However there are some like me who beg to differ and wanted to try something new, and learn new cultures, something that would make me a universalist like Emma Watson. To this day I have no regrets taking that step because I knew that I wanted to explore new places and try new things. It was at that time where I started my career as a teacher, something that I still enjoy as much as I do with writing. 

But looking at the American Dream from a universalist perspective, and also from a modernist’s perspective, we see five different strands of Americans fulfilling their dreams:

 

  1. The traditionalist role- following the footsteps of the forefathers by striving for a career, having a house and family and fulfilling the duties of going to church and engaging in social events in their own circles. The majority of people, esp. in rural areas still have this role even though the numbers are decreasing.

 

  1. The universalist role- these are people who don’t follow the American Dream and are wanderers, looking for adventure until they settle down somewhere outside their home. This where I fit in. Ironically, two other classmates of mine are in that boat too, as they have been living in Germany since 2014.

 Link:

 https://flensburgerfiles.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/americans-in-germany-2-hometown-locals-part-i/  (This has two parts)

  

  1. The disadvantaged role- these are people who struggle to make a living because of adverse conditions, such as long-term unemployment, abuse, discrimmination and other social issues. Sadly this applies for over 65% of the American population and affecting all race. This also applies to the undereducated who are also ignorant.

  

  1. The experimental role- these are people who instead of following the traditional role, they discover themselves through the creation of alternative lifestyles-regardless of whether they adopted them or created them. This also includes homosexuality, feminism, aethesism and the like. Basically it’s individual preference. These people usually don’t experiment with things from other countries so they don’t do much travelling outside the States unless they are doing it for a cause.

 

  1. The multicultural role- these are people who used to lead the American Dream until they decided to travel for a while and see new cultures before they return home to share with others. I had one classmate who did just that, having left Minnesota for five states, three countries including Germany and then resettling in the States. Only a few of these kinds you will find in the country today

 

But the categories are not completely etched in stone as there are some outliers that have made it successfully despite having come from broken households. This applies to several players in the NFL and NBA who have come from that category but found their way to success, despite having still face adversity because of their skin color. Michael Oher (the film The Blindside) is the poster boy for this rags to riches category that still exists but the numbers have dwindled over the years. We also have some who followed the traditionalist line as a child but veered off to become a rebel and hippie, putting them into categories 2,4 and 5. That number has increased over the years because of their tiredness of being controlled by their parents regarding every step they take.

 To summarize the debate and clear up the matter, the American Dream still exists today but definitely not in the form it used to be. And despite Donald Trump’s feeble attempts to right the country into that traditional role- which will never happen because he has been a symbol for dividing the country into the neo-right vs. neo-left (a recipe for a civil war similar to what happened in Spain in the 1930s)- the American Dream has branched off into several segments, each of which has its own ways of struggling to establish a foundation which families can thrive on, and each of them are so different that they can never get along unless they find one common ground that could destroy the US, such as climate change and all the fighting that has come from it. If they could at least look at the issues that threaten the existence of the American Dream in any way, shape or form and tackle them together without the use of religion, politics and other items dividing the country, then we can maintain this Dream for generations to come. Otherwise if they don’t, we won’t have much left of the US by the time our children reach our ages. And with my daughter closing in on the 10 mark at the time of this post, time is running short to make that change.

 And from my experience, even if I’ve had my share of trials and tribulations as well as successes, if there is one thing we can learn from it, it is this: There is a thing called TEAM. Not like in German, where we have the Toll, Eine Andere Machts (I even witnessed that with our group presentation in Novels and Films with Volkmann a couple years ago), but this one I learned from football: Together, Everyone Accomplishes More.  We just have to allow for others to develop their talents and utilize them to help others. 

May the journey to find the good to turn things around begin. To be continued…..

Fl Fi USA

Aus! Vorbei! Und Tschüss, Jogi und Co!

 

German Soccer Team sets all time lows in their earliest exit from the 2018 World Soccer Cup in Russia in history.

There is a quote to start off this column about the defeat of the defending World Cup Champions of 2014 Germany, and it is a very simple one to swallow: Glauben und Sagen sind Gut; Kontrolle und Beweise sind besser. In English, it goes along the lines of Belief and Talk are good; Proof and Evidence are better. Germany was suppoosed to defend their 2014 World Cup title in the way it performed four years ago. However, a 2-0 pasting by South Korea in the last game of the first round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia sealed the deal in setting all new lows for the German soccer team in history.  To start off with, it was the first time in 80 years that Germany was eliminated after the first round in the World Cup. The last time it happened, it was after the Anschluss with Austria, which had been the better team before HItler took over.  It was also the first time in 18 years that the national soccer team was eliminated after the first round in an international tournament. The last time it happened was in the Euro-Cup in 2000. And like in this tournament, it featured a very lackluster performance that consisted of a tie and two defeats- a 1-0 shutout to England, its first in 32 years, and a 3-0 freightliner to Portugal.

While the German national coach  Erich Ribbeck eventually resigned after the early exit in 2000, the question is whether Joachim Loewe (Jogi, for short), Germany’s present national coach will do the same after this disastrous outing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  After all, the ball started rolling after the team suffered its first World Cup defeat in the opener of the first round since the 1982 tournament as West Germany. And like the upset to Algeria, the German soccer team of 2018 appeared clueless and defenseless against Mexico, having been upset in the first game 1-0.  After redeeming themselves in game two with a 2-1 win against Sweden, they needed their third win against South Korea, which not only did not happen, but they were humbled, spanked, annihilated, and embarassed. The last 10 minutes of that match summarized their latest outing in the tournament.

Before going further, let’s have a look at the highlights of the three matches:

Game 1:  1-0 for Mexico

Game 2: 2-1 victory over Sweden

Game 3: 2-0 loss to South Korea.

 

Surely the pressure is on Jogi to resign, yet when asked if he was going to do so, the response was simple: “It’s too early. I’m deeply disappointed. I never thought we would lose to South Korea.”

Those were his words. The head coach, who has led the team since 2006, with two second place finishes in the Euro-Cup (2016) and the World Cup (2010) and the World Cup Championship in 2014, plus the 2017 Confederations Cup title, is considering stepping down.  My advice to Jogi is: Don’t do it.

Why take this bold approach?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leichter als das  (Not easier than this.)

Germany has a long tradition of producing the finest soccer players as much as the finest coaches. In fact, some of the best players have become even better coaches, be it Rudi Voeller, Franz Beckenbauer or even Jogi himself. Each coach has had their own way of training their players to become the best in them.  Even players like Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller or even Manuel Neubert would be potential coaches for local soccer teams or even a national team if they wanted to take that path because of their experience. However, Jogi’s  time has not come to step down just yet.

It has nothing to do with the contract that takes him through 2023. It has more to do with the coach with his character versus the personalities of the players.  That has to do with how he and the German team have projected themselves so far. One doesn’t need to go further than listening to some of the parodies many German radio stations  have produced, looking at the German soccer team in general: a coach who is cool under pressure, trying to keep the team together, despite all the minor personal issues each player and personnel had up until the most recent game with South Korea. The best parody so far has been with Jogis Eleven, a comedy produced by central German radio station Jump Radio (powered by MDR Radio).  If one has a team that is coherent like a family, on the same page and have the same values and goals, then one can go far.

However, if one has a team where one promises to win it all but loses it all because of the lack of will to pull it all off, then it is very obvious that a disaster like this would happen. Already the team struggled to win even one game in 2018, having won only one game in the friendly matches prior to the opening game of the World Cup- a 2-1 squeaker against Saudi Arabia, the same team that they had spanked 8-0 in the opening round of the 2002 World Cup. Otherwise, they had two additional losses and one tie. Very atypical for the 2014 Champions. There, the red flags were going up. Then came the arrogance of the team, which revealed its ugly face after Tony’s Kroos’ last second win against Sweden in game 2 of the first round.  This altercation came after the game was over:

This is just as poor sportsmanship as a man slapping a woman, invoking spousal abuse. Even as a husband of a wonderful German wife and proud parent of a German-American daughter, this act of cockiness is an act of cowardness revealing the biggest weakness of the German soccer team, which is they were just not good enough- physically but especially mentally. It would be a matter of time until this disasterous third game that exposed everything and scared every naked woman taking a shower by a peeping tomcat.

In simpler languages, the performance by the team was just not cool, and Loewe as a coach only has part of the blame.  The players themselves have at least half the blame, if not the majority. But to be diplomatic, there is enough blame to go around because of the lack of attention to the other teams and how they have improved in comparision to how Germany has improved, making their shortest showing on record look like round one of the Rocky Balboa- Clubber Lang boxing match in Rocky III:

And even that defeat presents a good quote by Robert Collier: In every defeat is a lesson showing you home to win the victory the next time.

And so, we are going home, starting over from scratch. The poor performance shows that the team is in dire need of a change. Most of the players on the roster are past their prime, beset by injuries and a change of attitude since the 2014 Cup. The gap between the has-beens and the rookies is as wide as ever before, with the latter not undertanding the importance of  representing Germany and the world on the international stage. The personnel on the team is ready to step aside from their duties in soccer, especially the ones involved with the altercation with the Swedish soccer team after the second game. And basically, the team is in total disarray- in need of a total makeover. Yet it does not require the change in guard as the coach of the German national team.

In fact, keeping Jogi would represent continuity for Germany, for he can form the next set of soccer players who are ready to redeem themselves and prepare for a shot at the Euro-Cup in 2020. For himself, staying on would provide him with a chance to achieve the impossible, which is winning of Euro-Cup. The last time Germany won that was in 1996, the only time the team won since West and East Germany reunited in 1990. If he was to keep a couple members from the 2014 team, it would be the first for them as well.  Yet one thing is  certain, the team that showed up for  the 2018 World Cup will have all but maybe one or two  players disappear come 2020. Jogi will definitely look for ways to bring the next generation onto the international stage, while looking at ways of saying good-bye to the older generation, who is ripe to move on.

Yet Jogi must be aware that in the event that he stays on as coach for the German national soccer team, it will be his last chance to redeem himself, both for the Euro-Cup and for the 2022 World Cup. He must make it count but he must have the support of his personnel to make it happen. And it is very obvious that there must not be a repeat of what happened in the 2018 World Cup. The revival and return to relevance will be long, hard and bloody, like in the second boxing match between Rocky and Lang (see below). But with the right coach, like Jogi, and a set of players with as big of an appetite for an international title, the quest for success will be well worth it.

So without further ado, get back to work and look ahead to 2020. Go get ’em, Coach!

 

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