Composition: "The teenager who saved a man with an SS tattoo"
Choose one of the following:
- "True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence." (F.D. Roosevelt, 1944)
Comment on this statement with reference to Lily in the novel Half Broke Horses. (content 10 VP; language 15 VP)
- Some years ago the British Newspaper Daily Express published a special edition with the following title page.
Comment on its message. (content 10 VP; language 15 VP)
Freedom at a Price
Few words have been quite as ubiquitous throughout American history as “freedom”. It is a deceptively simple word, and a concept of both great simplicity and unexpected complication. For Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a president who had been warning of the dangers of Hitler all through the 1930s, it carried a distinctively patriotic soul, as well.
While Roosevelt might have had a broader picture in mind, individual freedom begins at home. Today, many Americans are held back by their financial situation, and the ever-growing disparity between the few that can and the many that are tied up juggling two jobs to make ends meet is threatening to tear this society apart. Social and political factors, such as a woman’s right to choose or an individual’s right to defend oneself by carrying guns in public, further delineate this difficult debate. While the economic security of living in countries that support their citizens with their basic needs, such as food or shelter, has been much improved throughout the globe, job security and income disparity are very different matters. As “true economic security”, to paraphrase Roosevelt a bit, is difficult to attain for the many, it is not surprising to political commentators that today’s America is caught in an ideological battle fiercer than ever before, with towering politicians such as Hillary Clinton and populists like Donald Trump dominating the headlines.
In the novel Half Broke Horses, the character Lily finds herself in such an unstable situation that many times, the reader might wonder if she is in far over her head. The book is concerned with a young woman’s path to independence and survival in the face of harsh circumstances. From these, she steadily advances and reaches successes both big and small, as well as setbacks. In her pursuit of a truly individual path to happiness, Lily is a symbol for an American Dream that, back in the day, still proved wildly popular and inspiring to many American citizens. Roosevelt, however, being both a Democrat and a realist with an unwavering focus, had somewhat different ideals in mind for his people. He brought about the policies of the “New Deal”, and placed a broader emphasis on the role of the state than probably any of his predecessors. He believed that government must help its citizens in times of great need – as the financial crisis of 1929 facilitated.
Therefore, the novel of a truly independent woman and the historical reality of an America entrenched in war and crisis are two different takes on how freedom can be perceived. The same battle continues to rage within American society: On the one hand, there is the argument that government has to lend a helping hand in times such as the world financial crisis of 2008, on the other, that individual ingenuity and a stubborn focus on one’s own goals provide for better results.
Pride, Give or Take the Prejudice
Years ago, before the advent of the internet and its constant “breaking news” mentality, special editions of newspapers marked events that usually a whole country would be interested in. But the Daily Express, which teasingly calls itself the “world’s greatest newspaper” in capital letters on its front page, chose a uniquely tailored topic for its 2011 special edition – Great Britain’s choice of staying in or leaving the EU.
The headline features strong language, which is only supported by the military image of a man holding sword and shield and spear, as if there was a need to defend the motherland from an ongoing invasion. This potent symbol is supported by the speech bubble (“We demand our country back”) which leaves no room for doubt, as if the issue was so clear-cut that no one in their right mind could differ with their opinion. The Christian tradition of Great Britain, alluded to via the symbol of the cross and an analogy to medieval crusaders, as well as the defense of the White Cliffs of Dover as a symbol of a broader, proud British heritage, all support the claim that, with certainly, this group of nations has no place within a European partnership.
This is odd, to say the least. A newspaper, representing not an entire population, but the more extreme anti-EU strand of British opinion? Europe, so closely intertwined throughout history with the British Isles, viewed as a threat to British sovereignty and independence? Surely there are wildly different opinions within Great Britain regarding the EU, and they continue to be strong to this day, regardless of the ongoing debates on financial instabilities of some partner nations such as Greece or Portugal, or the current insecurity regarding Syrian refugees and how to deal with them. Despite these problems, such a one-note title page negates all the positive influences of the EU on Britain’s own economic situation over the past ten years.
Ultimately, a title page such as this seems dangerous. It divides us into believers and non-believers, and it views its readers as either defenders of a great United States of Europe of tomorrow – the dream of politicians such as Wolfgang Schäuble – or proponents of the opposite, and the end of said vision. Having grown up in wholly peaceful surroundings in a country that, only decades before I was born, was the main stage of the potentially most catastrophic war in human history, such a title page stirs anger in me. Progress in peaceful times is never easy; it is always marred by seemingly useless compromise, and often comes at a snail’s pace. But the demagoguery employed by the editors of the Daily Express is wholly designed to drive us apart at a time when we might need more cooperation, not a useless debate on tearing contracts apart.
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