The Least We Can Do: Bearing the Weight of Iniki and Others

I would like to configure this post in conversation with the post written earlier this week by Jenna, Jonathan, Aidan, Madi, Clio, and Cameron. This group writes thoughtfully about Hurricane Iniki and its impact on the Hawaiian Islands; what I wish to do is expand on one of their points by drawing connections back to previously-examined course content.

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Hurricane Maria: Searching for Answers, Finding More Questions

*This is a collaborative blog post, created by: Sakshi Kumar, Neha Marolia, Michael Griffin, Luke Edelman, Catherine White, and Katie Sullivan  

Maria’s Story:

The story of Hurricane Maria officially began on September 16, 2017 when it wasn’t even called Hurricane Maria yet. At 11 a.m. that morning, four days before landfall, it was called “Potential Tropical Cyclone 15.” It wasn’t until 5 p.m. later that day that it was newly named “Tropical Storm Maria.” The next day, it was deemed a hurricane and the first hurricane watch for Puerto Rico was issued on September 18.

Courtesy of the New York Times

Maria landed in Puerto Rico on September 20. On this day, 20 inches of rain fell, the whole island lost power, and 80-90% of the structures were destroyed in some towns. The next day, President Trump issued a state of emergency for Puerto Rico. Three days after landfall, 85% of the Puerto Rico cell towers did not work, and on September 26, 44% of Puerto Rico lacked drinking water.

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Born and Raised: “A Life Lived in One Place”

In my last post, I explored the fact that so many people at the end of When the Levees Broke chose to identify themselves through association with their home city, proudly declaring their having been “born and raised” in New Orleans. In fact, I did more than examine this facet of the documentary–I celebrated it. I wrote, of the cast’s proud proclamations of their New Orleans origins, “I see this as not only a testament to the richness of the culture and life in New Orleans… but also as a testament to the inspiring pride and strength of the people of New Orleans.” While I have not changed my perspective of this scene as inspiringly beautiful, further reflection upon its implications has positioned the scene in my thinking as a springboard for further exploration of the notion of being “born and raised” in one place and continuing to live in that place through adulthood.

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Rich Musical Tradition Wrought from Intense Oppression

Upon attending an event titled “A Collision of Worldviews: An interview with Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell”, which was part of this year’s commemoration for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here at Geneseo, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of perceiving musical traditions in terms of both their origins and their power.

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“Forgetting” When You Have To

In examining conceptions of memory and forgetting, I find myself wondering how memory and forgetting could possibly be apart from one another. It seems to me that the simultaneous function of the two is what makes life bearable.

When dealing with experiences that seem unfathomable (to use a term that has adhered itself to some corner of my mind since the start of our course), some things may need to be “forgotten” in order to continue living. I do not use the term “forgotten” to represent a complete absence of recollection, but rather to signify a more superficial and temporary absence from immediate consciousness.

In experiencing the loss of a loved one, for example, this particular kind of forgetting seems necessary at least to some extent. Of course this does not mean to put the memory of the person out of your mind completely and finally, but to carry on in day-to-day life, a kind of forgetting must be allowed so as to avoid being consumed by grief and unbearable sadness. Often, this seems to be one of the most difficult things about losing a loved one; this kind of “moving on” and “getting back into the swing of things” requires a kind of putting-out-of-the-mind of the loss that one has just experienced. This can lead to feelings of guilt as a person takes a moment to realize the act of “forgetting” that they are engaging in as they re-enter their school or work routines. This usually comes in the form of thoughts like, “How can I be laughing and having fun when —– is dead?” or guilt upon realization that a day has gone by without thinking of the one who has died.

The reality here is that this kind of “forgetting” is not really forgetting at all, but rather just another human survival mechanism that makes it possible to live a life that is not crippled by grief. If humans were incapable of this “forgetting”, the losses and tragedies we experience would build up and quickly become unbearable.

The human mind is terribly and beautifully complicated. I believe memory and forgetting are wound together in an intricate web that may or may not be possible to untangle, though to try is an interesting and rewarding undertaking that I find myself increasingly glad to partake in.

The Danger in Prosthetic Memory

Upon reading Nyong’o’s “Black Survival in the Uchromatic Dark”, I find myself returning to a notion that was introduced to me in Dr. Cooper’s American Literature course at the start of this semester–a notion that George Mason University Professor Alison Landsberg calls “prosthetic memory”. Continue reading “The Danger in Prosthetic Memory”

When We Know What It Is Not, We Can Search For What It Is

When I read Liz’s last post, I found myself really glad that she brought up the idea of slavery again (thanks Liz!). I remember finding it very interesting (for lack of a better term because I did not know what to make of it at the time) when we read the Afterword of “Bloodchild” and discovered Butler’s assertions that she was not writing about slavery. I had not interpreted this particular short story as one about slavery, but I was intrigued by Butler’s choice to very explicitly say that it was not one. Why did she feel this was necessary?

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Empathy: Oankali Do More Than Walk in Your Shoes

This past Thursday I attended a discussion on empathy and literature, led by Dr. Ken Asher. The discussion was terribly interesting, and I could not help but draw some mental connections between the discussion and the content of our course. Cassie happens to discuss empathy in her last post (with a nod to Sami), which makes me feel more confident about the relevance of this post.

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