exercises due: calendar week 42 (THURSDAY! Because I won't be here on the Friday).

A. Words


That wasn't too bad last week, was it? So how about you continue enhancing your vocabulary by learning the rest of the list? I can see the enthusiasm in your faces!

B. Declaration of Independence / Reading


Below you find an article that was published in 2016 in the Washington Post. Read it and summarize it, highlighting what the author considers to be the "American paradox".


As background information, you might find THIS ANALYSIS interesting. THIS ESSAY is highly recommended with regards to the question of whether there had already been a true "American identity" prior to the Declaration of Independence and the War of Independence or not.

In this article, the autor, Michael Gerson, takes the celebrations of the 4th of July as a starting point to remind the readers of the reason Americans celebrate this day. He also explains his view on what he calls "the American paradox." He writes that "[i]n this odd political season — so shallow in rhetoric, so fundamental in consequence — Americans are not only celebrating their nation’s independence, but they are also considering its meaning. All of a sudden, the most basic questions in our democracy are on the table: What is a real or good American? How do we define what is unique and great about our country?


At least a portion of the current populist wave is a nationalist backlash against cosmopolitan elites. In this view, Americans do not merely love a set of philosophic abstractions; they love a concrete nation, with an identity that is under siege. An Anglo-Protestant heritage of law, religion and culture is threatened by a variety of forces, within and without: multiculturalism, illegal immigration and politically correct leaders who refuse to even name our enemies.


It is a paradox that those who want to emphasize the uniqueness and particularity of American culture — rooted in a specific ethnic and religious background — are adopting the most typical form of nationalism. Historically speaking, nations defined by ethnicity, motivated by grievances and looking backward to a golden age are commonplace. What has been different about the United States is its remarkable ability to make a nation out of nations. This is a tribute to national ideals that emerged from within one culture, but now appeal and inspire far beyond it.


No nation, of course, is disembodied. It is legitimate to love the rocks and roots of a definite plot of ground, and our plot is particularly grand and lovely. It is not a coincidence that one of America’s first symbols was a rattlesnake in a defensive coil. But another symbol was the rising sun on George Washington’s chair at the Constitutional Convention, as hopeful as the break of day. America’s founders thought their work was somehow the culmination of age-old longings and a new order for the ages. This is the reason that the term “American creed” is rich in meaning, and “American race” sounds like a profanity.


The hypocrisies of our history are startling. A nation dedicated to freedom was a prison for millions of slaves. In the founding era, many towns celebrated Pope’s Day, in which effigies of the Bishop of Rome were cheerfully burned. While Chinese laborers worked on the massive foundation of the Statue of Liberty, Congress tightened the Chinese Exclusion Act, which set immigration rules by race. Even now, some would have those rules set by religion.


But how do we even know these are hypocrisies? It is because they are revealed by the light of the Declaration of Independence. America’s founders set a principle in place that has judged and changed cultural practices for more than two centuries. It is primary to our national identity.


Keeping the balance between a real community — with the right, like any other people, to define its boundaries and traditions — and the liberal principles of justice and equality has not been easy. It has led to a troubled and bloody history, which is also a shining achievement in the conscience of humankind."


The author then goes on to quote Abraham Lincoln as a witness to the strength that Americans draw from the founding of their nation.

(quote from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-declaration-in-a-time-of-doubt/2016/07/04/79e1e4a2-3fc8-11e6-80bc-d06711fd2125_story.html)