The Problem of Place in America and My Neighbor

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“The Problem of Place in America” and “My Neighborhood”: The Breakdown ofCommunity”The Problem of Place in America” and “My Neighborhood”: The Breakdown ofCommunityWR 121 Paper #2In Ray Oldenburg’s “The Problem of Place in America” and Ishmael Reed’s”My Neighborhood” the authors express thier dissatisfaction with the community.

Oldenburg focuses on the lack of a “third place” and the effects of consumerismon the suburbs, while Reed recalls his experience with prejudice communities.

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Their aim is to identify problems in our society that they find to be a problem.

Although neither of these authors offer solutions, the fact that these problemsare addressed is enough.

Some basic similarities between these two authors is they are bothattempting to identify problems in our society today. There are many that areailing our society at this time, yet I agree with them in their deductions. Itseems that they have addressed two of the main ills today, prejudice andconsumerism. These keep our communities from becoming unified. Fear is one ofthe prevalent themes in both essays. In Oldenburg’s essay the suburbanite fearsthe unknown, his neighbors. People feel threatened by the size of thecommunities and they do not know anyone. These is due partly to consumerism,which keeps people indoors. Reed was feared because of the color of his skin.

Dogs would bark at him as he walked by, cops would enter his own home to harasshim, people would yell racial slurs, and he was even watched closely to makesure that he did not abduct a child off the street. These fears are a result ofthe media and our society telling us to fear certain types of people.

Television often portrays the black man as a dope dealing slander who hangs outon corners with a forty of “Old E.” Soon people begin to believe all that theyhear and begin to discriminate against others.

One glaring difference in the two authors essays is that they bothaddress the same problem yet they touch on differing aspects. Oldenburg talksabout the deterioration of the suburbs. One reason is that there is no thirdplace. This is where we come to grips with our lives, relax, and reflect. Thiscould be a community center, a secluded spot in the woods, or a coffee shop atthe corner. The problem is that these places simply do not exist in the suburbs.

One must get in their car, use gas, and drive to a place of meeting. Thismeans planning out the whole rendezvous point in advance and making sure thatthe person you want to meet can be there. Consumerism also keeps the communityfrom talking with one another. The television, video games, and stereoequipment make us want to stay inside, thus ignoring our surroundings. Soon wehave thousands of houses with no people that really know eachother because theyare busy attending to a screen.

Ishmael Reed talks about the various communities he lived in, and howeach one varied in its level of prejudice. Part of his problems were due to thefact that his skin was black. People were often cold to him and he was treatedbadly because he is a black man. However, he finds the ideal neighborhood inOakland. His neighbors all look out for one another and care about what happensin their area. Also, the people often meet at thier houses to have dinner andtalk. He says that it was the ideal community where the people act human. Now,while Reed is recalling a past experience of his, Oldenburg is simply statingfacts and observations. Neither of these are direct warnings yet they attemptto make us aware of common problems in today’s society. English

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