Independence Day & Humanity’s Flaws

tattered american flag

As I sit here and work to type up a meaningful post on a conglomerate of issues in a chaotic country and world, with my shoulder pain, many thoughts go through my mind.

So many life-altering and difficult events have transpired so far this year. Most especially  the spread of the coronavirus, an economy teetering toward a depression, and the injustices that have existed in our country since its inception in one way or another, bubbling forth after the murder of George Floyd.

To top that off, I’ve forgotten several times that this is also an election year. My friend has reminded me at least three times in the past few weeks.

But what I see amid all of these tragic and chaotic events is a lack of nuance and looking at all the factors involved.

Instead, I see extreme views from every spectrum on the Covid issue, the destruction of statues issue, and the views of politicians.

I don’t want this post to turn into a novella, so I will attempt to make this as succinct as I can.

Regarding the coronavirus arguments. It’s frustrating to see so many people pick a side as if they’re rooting on a football team, digging their heels in and slamming on those who don’t agree with them, using extreme language like “communists” from one group and “selfish bastards” in the other.

Is there no middle or gray to this? In my experience, in just about everything in this world apart from God, as I’m a believer, is mostly in the gray.

Some comments on this coronavirus argument:

There is still conflicting reports on the health of masks. Not whether it keeps your spittle from spraying on people close to you, but rather if it is healthy to wear the same one all day, whether at a job or in a classroom/school–closed spaces. And if we’re wearing them properly. Scientists and doctors are still conflicted on this. Some say it’s healthy and good, others don’t. Therefore, it becomes a matter of which health experts you trust and/or believe.

The information that the sun’s UV rays kills the virus on surfaces in less than two minutes outside. With this information, I see no reason to wear a mask while walking outdoors or sitting outdoors from a distance.

I follow the requirements of wearing masks inside buildings, which makes sense. The reason this makes sense is because I’ve listened to many interviews with different doctors on the problems with ventilation within buildings. I’ve had this concern with nursing homes since this pandemic hit.

Can there be something done to fix buildings’ ventilating systems so that they’re cleaner? Why hasn’t somebody already come up with this decades ago? Certainly, there has got to be a way to make those systems cleaner and healthier for people working within those buildings and breathing in the recirculated air.

I know this isn’t an acceptable or tolerated view, but all views should be tolerated and given a listen with regards to doctors’ reports on medications that have shown good results in the healing of Covid patients. There are multiple reports from a top French doctor, doctors in Greece and other countries, as well as our own American doctors, that show hydroxychloroquine with zinc and azithromycin actually DOES help people suffering with Covid. You can check the many studies out there.

The discrepancy is in clinical trials versus actual use of it by doctors for their patients in real time. This is why some articles dismiss the potency of this treatment. But the actual evidence via doctors’ patients’ wellness after taking the medications early into their illness of the virus show non-disputable good results. Then again, with all the mixed reports, one is left again to select which health experts you want to trust.

One of the problems was during the lockdown, people couldn’t go to the doctor until they had symptoms, and by the time they got in to see the doctor, they were already at a more serious and latter stage of the illness. For the medications to work (and the dosages need to be way lower than the ridiculous 2400 mg/day, which of course, would end up killing anybody .. the acceptable dose is more like 400-600 mg./day), one needs to be seen earlier so that the medications can work properly. Obviously, they aren’t going to work on someone on the cusp of death on a ventilator.

Therefore, we should be using all medications that have been shown to help and heal people.

I think part of the problem is money and political bent, as well as maybe a bit of fear. A cheap drug that’s been around at least 60 years doesn’t do much for the big pharmaceutical industries. And nobody wants Trump to be right about HCQ (hydroxycholoroquine). If only people had the capacity to look outside their disdain for another human being and recognize when the information he shared from doctors is actually fleshing out to be correct. That it’s okay to say, “He may be right”.

That requires the nuance, moderate, objective viewpoint that is sorely lacking in this country.

One thing about ventilators. Unfortunately because nobody knew how to handle this virus since it was novel, new, they didn’t realize until a month or two later that ventilators were doing more damage than good.  Thankfully, I believe because WHO put out a notice of not recommending ventilators for treatment as the first resort, that I think regular oxygen was utilized, which may have been part of the factor for the plummeting in amount of deaths (around 90% less deaths) in the last month. Maybe that was coupled with the HCQ cocktail.

Everyone initially thought the pandemic would bring people together. That more outpouring of concern and love would blossom.

Perhaps that happened for the first month, but it fractured and has grown volatile since then.

We all are in this together, wanting treatments and medications that will help against Covid. Let’s keep an open mind, please.

Comments on the economy and injustices:

I believe these two subjects intersect. First off, people who are or were scraping to get by, to feed their families and wanted to re-open their small businesses should never have been ridiculed. If your children are hungry, near starving, would you say you’re selfish? How dare you? The one thing keeping you afloat in this money-centered society is about to go under, and you’re scared you’ll lose your life.

Suicides went up, as well as mental health issues. This can’t be ignored. It has to be taken into consideration, along with everything else.

woman on window sill sad

None of these problems are an EITHER/OR situation. Every aspect needs to be addressed and heard and dealt with.

The economy for the working class and middle class has been a true dilemma and struggle for many decades … at least 30-40 years now.

There is no denying the fact that the wealth in our nation has moved to the top and left most of the middle to bottom earners poorer. It has been shown the changes started in the mid to late 1970s. People’s wages stagnated and didn’t keep up with the increased prices of food, housing, etc.

Changes in our criminal justice and prison systems have caused more suffering. Our government never should have allowed private for-profit prisons. It’s been a horrible disaster and has ruined many lives since its inception. This, too, changed around the same time as the wages.

The militarizing of our local police around the country has also caused major problems. We need to go back to police as part of our communities, where they know the people in the neighborhoods and understand that Joe has Autism or Betty has bipolar. They need to be trained better in issues of mental health so that they treat those with mental health problems with compassion and humane treatment. And some police officers do. It’s not an all or nobody case. But the structure within the system isn’t strong on this.

This post is turning into what I didn’t want it to turn into.

But I must finish my thoughts on the movements to stop racism by some in the police and the overall embedded sickness of racism in our society.

As everyone knows by now, the horrible murder of George Floyd was the final straw for most African Americans and even for some whites. We’ve witnessed these inhumane acts against black people since cell phones could record them. But we all know these were happening before that throughout our history.

Therefore, all the protests and marches are justified.

protestors for Floyd

Then there was the looting and destruction of local stores, etc. Obviously, this isn’t right, and it was disturbing to watch. But what also went through my head was how desperate some of these people must have felt to do those actions. People who are starving sometimes steal food, for example. People are hurting and suffering and have been for decades–going back to economic woes and hardships. Couple that with racist actions, and I’m not sure what people expected would happen.

We also need to remember that the wealthiest people in the world, like Jeff Bezos, don’t pay federal income taxes while the rest of us in the middle class and working class do. And during this pandemic, I’ve watched reports showing how he and others in the top echelon have made out like bandits through a tough and heartbreaking time for most Americans, via the virus and shutdown. Therefore, although the loopholes and sneaky ways these billionaires work the system is considered legal, I do believe it is a type of looting of the masses below them.

Finally, the matter of the destruction of statues, etc. due to the reverence of the founding fathers and other well-known people in our history who had done things that were offensive or racist.

jefferson statue toppled

Sure. We can, and with some, should, take down the statues. We could put them in museums.

What we can’t do is erase our past historical mistakes or grievous errors. They will always be there and should be a reminder not to repeat these mistakes and to move forward toward a more just, healthy, and human-respecting society and culture.

A quick note. I don’t agree with Trump’s executive order in throwing people who topple statues into prison for a minimum of ten years. Again, the prison problem in this country is glaring. 

Onto this subject of statue removal.

Every person in this country, on this planet throughout our human existence, has flaws and is broken. Those who do good things are celebrated. Those who do bad are basically condemned. But everyone does good and bad things, if we’re being honest.

I also think we have to realize that yes, our forefathers weren’t perfect. They had slaves, some had mistresses, and probably did all kinds of other sinful behavior. Why? Because they ARE human like the rest of us. And what we know at the time is all we know.

So, although I don’t like some of the things our founding fathers and those after them have done in history, I realize they are recognized for the good that they did. I also acknowledge this is part of our heritage and our American traditions, like them or not. And there are some things that I definitely don’t like about our culture’s imperialistic, prejudicial, and arrogant nature woven throughout the existence of the United States.

But if we’re honest, just like we may be members of a dysfunctional family, it’s the same for us as fellow Americans.

Many of America’s actions have been sinful and hurtful throughout our history, and we need those museums to remind us of where we came from if we are from this country, and look at its messy record, as well as the good in it and accept that it existed and still does.

We make changes through reforming our prison system, criminal justice system, foreign policy (which shows generally our racism from a global perspective that mirrors our domestic position), and many other institutions in our country. I’m not saying that’s an easy feat. It’s just obvious we need to do these things.

What is really lacking is a love for others. All the hatred and in-fighting and divisions have truly hurt my heart. We are not that different from each other. Political parties don’t matter. They are all the same. They shouldn’t be dividing us. We are all human beings, and nuance, gray, moderation, and taking time to ponder things should supersede partisan, extreme viewpoints from whatever side on whatever issue.

flashy love sign

All that’s happening in our country and around the world should be bigger than politics. It should be about softening our hearts toward each other and helping one another.

I’m not perfect and have many flaws of my own. Actually, I’m a pretty broken, messed up person.  I’m just sharing my thoughts on what I’ve been seeing, hearing, and feeling since this all started in early 2020.

On this Independence Day, I’m hoping to work together with my fellow humans through empathy and care to help change, for the better, our government’s broken systems and people’s broken hearts, one encounter at a time.

 

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Between Privilege and Poverty

Dido Belle

 

In the movie, Belle, the aspect of power structure and relations is evident throughout, especially in the depictions of rites of passage and cultural art and symbols in art in British life.

Belle is a film set in the years 1769-1781 in Britain when the country was a colonial empire and leader in trade. In this movie, the plot centers on Britain as a slave trade capital.

Belle is based on the true-life story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was the daughter of Sir John Lindsay and an African slave, Maria Belle.  Sir Lindsay placed Dido in his uncle’s care, and left for the West Indies, as he was a captain in the King’s Royal Navy.  Lord Mansfield and his wife raised Dido and her cousin, Elizabeth.  Lord Mansfield was also the Lord Chief Justice of England.  He presided over the court appeal case of the Zong slave ship whose captain and crew threw 132 diseased and dying slaves over the ship’s side to drown in the ocean.  The owners of the ship wanted to collect insurance for the human cargo that perished at sea.

There is cultural change that comes about in England through the Zong case before the highest court in England with Lord Chief Justice Mansfield presiding.  The case consisted of whether the insurance companies should compensate the owners/traders of the Zong ship for the loss of human cargo.  The horrid case drew much attention through strong, vocal protestations of local abolitionists that spread the news of the case to men of high position – anyone of influence.  By 1807, a law abolishing slave trade was enacted (Understanding Slavery, 2011).  It later led to the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 (Gates, Jr., 2014).

Power Structure

The movie depicts power structure in the examples of Lord Mansfield and his family, as well as the Ashfords, who are nobility, or aristocrats.  The aristocrats, or wealthy landowners, had the power at that time, besides the highest power of the monarchy (Smitha, 2015).  These societies were patrilineal.

With this power structure, Dido lived within it, hovering between nobility and servant.  Her white bloodline elevated her above servant and commoner, but her African slave bloodline put her below a commoner.  So, for Dido, she was not permitted to dine with her family when dinner guests were present, and she had no coming out in the rites of passage the young English women of nobility normally did.

An example of this was near the beginning of the film, when Dido became a young lady, she did not understand her position in the family and society.  Because of not being permitted to eat or join at the dinner table when guests were present, and the looks Lady Ashford gave her while visiting, Dido hated her African slave bloodline.  In a poignant scene where she smacks her fists on her chest and neck and rakes her hands over her cheeks, it showed she hated her skin color, hence, hated her African heritage.  Also, because she was a woman, Dido was considered lower than men, and did not have much independence.

Dido had fallen in love with John Davinier, but she could not pursue it because they came from different social classes.  Mr. Davinier, the son of a reverend, was a passionate man with the desire to become a lawyer or judge.  He was an activist and abolitionist.  Dido and John shared the same beliefs about abolishing slavery and agreed that the owners of the Zong should not be compensated for throwing a large portion of the slaves into the ocean to die.  John also treated Dido as an equal, and saw the beauty in her through her mother’s lineage.

Oliver Ashford, who had wanted to marry Dido, did not recognize Dido’s mother’s contribution to Dido’s features.  He found Dido a unique and pretty specimen, in which he could “overlook” her mother’s African bloodline and heritage because her father had given her such “loveliness and privilege” (Jones & Asante, 2013).  Although, he thought he was being complimentary to Dido, it was really an insult to her.

Rites of Passage

In the film, a rite of passage consisted of English women being presented to social groups of their same class once they transitioned from a girl to womanhood.  This was a common ritual in the upper classes of European society.  The transition is common in all cultures in which a rite of passage happens when one is between two positions.  The person is no longer part of the old position and not yet part of the new one (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008).

In the noble English culture, endogamy was practiced.  Women were to be matched with a suitable husband from the same social class through the decision of her father or male equivalent.  As was said above, because Dido lived in a patrilineal society and culture, it was the man who made decisions and took care of the woman financially and in all things.  In Belle, it was Dido’s cousin, Elizabeth, who “came out” for this purpose of matching her up with a husband.

Dido’s finances were unique in that, although she was illegitimate, her father left her a great amount of money after his death.  He died when Dido was a young woman.  She was given 2000 pounds a year, which was a lot of money at that time.  So, with this inheritance, Lord Mansfield and Lady Mansfield did not have to worry about Dido marrying into a social class, because they felt a nobleman wouldn’t marry her because she was a mulatto, and she would shame the family marrying a commoner or servant below her noble status.  Because of this, Dido did not go through the rite of passage of being presented to society to be matched with a husband.

Elizabeth Murray, Dido’s cousin, did not receive an inheritance from her father, even though she was legitimate.  Her father gave his money to his other children and new wife.  So, Elizabeth was at the mercy of the man Lord Mansfield and Lady Mansfield chose for her.  Her father was also a naval officer, and deposited his daughter with Lord Mansfield before Dido arrived.

Cultural Art and Symbolism

The portraits of aristocrats were quite prevalent at the time in England.  The many portraits shown in the Kenwood home of Dido were of her relatives, and many of them showed a nobleman standing and a black servant kneeling below him.  This symbolized both the status and inequality of the two men.  The nobleman was seen as higher in importance and social status.  The black servant had little social status.

The film’s producer/director, and its writer, were inspired in creating their movie by the portrait of Dido and her cousin, Elizabeth.  The painting portrays Elizabeth seated on a bench reaching out her right hand and touching Dido’s left arm, who stood near by, smiling with a finger to her cheek, and a basket of fruit in her left arm.  This was a powerful picture that symbolized equality.  Dido was not kneeling before her cousin, but standing next to her.  The portrait hung in the house until 1922.  It is now in the Scone Palace in Scotland where Lord Mansfield was born (Jones & Asante, 2013).

In conclusion, this analysis of the power structure, rites of passage, and cultural and art symbolism in England enlightened me to the enculturation of England’s aristocratic societies and how power and money influenced trade and treatment of African Americans and those in lower classes.  It taught me what life had been like for a mulatto woman in eighteenth century England and the environment in which she lived — a patrilineal culture and society and its racial boundaries.  Many societies are still patrilineal, and the effects of racism and sexism are still around today, regardless of the eradication of slavery and the progression of the women’s movement.   With this knowledge, I am able to better understand cultures around the world – how they came about and evolved over time — and hope to contribute in a positive way to the progression of equality for all people.

 

PS: If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it as soon as you can. One of the best of the 21st century in script, acting, classiness, and storyline.

 

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Works Cited
Understanding Slavery.  (2011). The Zong case study.  Understanding Slavery. Retrieved fromhttp://www.understandingslavery.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=373&Itemid=236
Gates, Jr., H.  (2014).  Who Was the Real Dido Elizabeth Belle?  The Root.  Retrieved from http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2014/05/did_belle_really_help_end_slavery_in_england.1.html
Smitha, F.  (2015).  Britain in the mid 1700s.  Macrohistory and World Timeline.  Retrieved from http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h29-fr.htm
Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  (2008).  Rites of Passage.  Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  Retrieved from http://find.galegroup.com/gic/infomark.do?&idigest=fb720fd31d9036c1ed2d1f3a0500fcc2&type=retrieve&tabID=T001&prodId=GIC&docId=CX3045302291&source=gale&userGroupName=itsbtrial&version=1.0
Jones, D. (Producer), & Asante, A. (Director).  (2013).  Belle [DVD].  United States.  Bankside Films.

 

 

 

Finding Meaning in Silenced Voices

colonialism cartoon

Postcolonial theory emerged after WWII, in which it studied the colonizer and the colonized, meaning those people from imperialistic nations, such as England, France, Denmark, and America, and the people from the countries the former ones colonized.

The postcolonial theorist, Edward Said, used poststructuralist tools by deconstructing the West and East through binary opposition.  The West was given the center or privilege, while the East was given the marginalized or “other.”

The postcolonial critic, Homi Bhabha, focused on the interactions of the colonizer with the colonized and how each group was affected by the others’ cultures.

Lastly, Gayarti Chakravorty Spivak, an Indian-born Western academic studied the difference in the cultures of the colonizer and the colonized and paid close attention to both class and the effects of colonialism on the colonized women.

The critics analyzed literature for these aspects and also had to figure out how to categorize postcolonial literature from writers who were geographically not part of Europe or other colonial powers (Bertens).  This was done through using the term, “literatures in English” (Bertens).

The writers’ works under the oppression of the colonizers were still viewed and critiqued through the center, which were the English academics and critics.  Later, in the 1970s through today, this has changed and opened up to more autonomy for those postcolonial writers that were victims of colonization (Bertens).

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows the Western postcolonial view through an American wealthy, caucasian family.

yellow wallpaper book cover 2

Gilman, an American writer and feminist, wrote this in the late nineteenth century when colonialism was quite active.

In the story, we can see that John, the main character’s husband, represents the colonizer, or from Said’s point of view, the West, whereas the main character represents the East.  John is a doctor and wealthy.  His character aligns with the traits of the Western colonizer or “masculine pole” (Bertens) Said describes as “enlightened, rational, entrepreneurial, and disciplined” (Bertens).  The main character shows John to exhibit the traits of rational and enlightened when she says, “John is practical to the extreme.  He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures” (Gilman).  This also reflects the West’s or colonizer’s view of the East’s or colonized’s practices, beliefs, and cultures.

The main character reflects the postcolonial view of the colonized that helps or aids in the colonizer’s power when she says in regard to John, “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.”  This also shows the trait of passiveness that Said mentions in his list of the “feminine pole” (Bertens).  These traits Said mentions that are displayed by the main character in this short story are “irrational, passive, undisciplined, and sensual” (Bertens).  The main character displays irrationality when she says, “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time” (Gilman).  Her passivity is apparent when she says, “I tried to have a real earnest talk with him the other day and tell him I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.  But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor to stand it after I got there; I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished” (Gilman).

Using the methods of Bhabha, the interaction between the main character and her husband reveal that the main character’s perceived madness from being cooped up in the room affect John at the end of the story.  After the main character has torn up nearly all the rest of the yellow wallpaper in the room to try and release her alter ego from the prison she imagines in the paper, John comes to the room and finds it locked, for which she tells him where the key is.  In obtaining the key, John opens the door and asks in astonishment, “For God’s sake, what are you doing?” (Gilman), and the main character says, “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jane.  And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” (Gilman).  John proceeds to faint in reaction to this.  But this also depicts resistance by the main character/colonized against the colonizer.

The symbols of West and East and the colonizer and the colonized through the main character and her husband in the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” provide a good example of a postcolonial theory’s analysis through its lens.

 

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Works Cited
Bertens, Hans.  Literary Theory:  The Basics.  3rd ed.  London and New York:  Routledge, 2014.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.  “The Yellow Wallpaper.”  Gutenberg.org.  5 November 2012.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1952/1952-h/1952-h.htm.  Accessed 10 August 2017.