In Zulus we are confronted with a world that is leftover after a war has taken place. There is no denying that the world is ending, people have been sterilized, and there is no hope left. Even after Alice Achitophel becomes pregnant and some people, like Theodore Theodore, think she may be the answer to the world ending, we are left with the understanding that the world has ended, for humanity at least. As Alice Achitophel is moved out of the city her and the people she is with come across what can only be described as a scar on the land. Alice Achitophel doesn’t want to walk in it, and she doesn’t even know how it got there. In a similar sense, there is a figurative scar on the U.S. and on our medical history that we are also not willing to look at, and it could lead to an ending that parallels that of Alice Achitophel and everyone else who was left.
As Alice Achitophel is trying to leave the city, she is forced to follow Kevin Peters, since he knows his way out of the city and into the camp. The only way that they can go is directly through the scar, even though Alice would much rather avoid it. The scar is described as “red, blood-red covered channel walls, so red that she imagined them colored by life-fluids, a watershed of death (Everett: 57).” After they are forced into the scar by an approaching helicopter, they are forced to cover themselves with the dirt in order to blend in. Once they begin to do this, however, Alice Achitophel finds herself stuck, even describing her as being “Embedded in a blood-wall (Everett: 59).” Only after Kevin Peters jokes with her that there is a skeleton stuck in the wall with her is she able to free herself from it.
As Harriet Washington describes the horrors enacted on black people throughout our history as a nation, we can see that there is a similar scar on the medical field as well, except this one actually has skeletons within it. Medical Apartheid describes the situations in which black people would be experimented on against their will, all in the name of bettering the medical field, or even when they would be mutilated for non-medical purposes, as was the case for Mississippi appendectomies. Even in the beginning Washington discusses James Marion Sims, a surgeon who is often considered the founder of modern gynecology. Even though this is what people think of when they hear his name, they do not realize that the tools he invented were “first invented for surgeries upon black female slaves in the 1840s (Washington: 1).” We have long supported people for their medical achievements while ignoring the means they used to get there. This scar has stayed with us until the present, where we still don’t want to recognize what got us to where we are today.
When Alice gets stuck in the mud, she is only freed once she thinks there is a skeleton behind her. In the case of America’s medical history, it is lined with skeletons that are not able to be freed. The scar that marks the physical landscape as a result of the war also marks the medical system within the U.S. in a more figurative way. Although Washington is able to recognize the horrible history of our system, if the institutions in power are unable to recognize it we will never fully heal. As I have said in past blog posts, I think there is a chance that we will never really heal regardless, unless these structures are torn down completely.