Does time really heal all wounds? How big does the wound have to be for it to never heal? Throughout the semester, we have been given the opportunity to read examples of people trying to heal from their wounds, whether those be deeply intimate or social wounds that wound up impacting them. As brave as it was for them to try to heal, we have seen time and time again that there are just certain levels of damage that cannot be undone. I would argue that there is not always an answer once someone has been harmed. Not only is this represented in the literature throughout the semester, but it can also be seen in the U.S. when race is discussed.
Each book we have read has been focused on a serious incident which has taken place, whether that be the first set of bombs being set off in Zulus, the organism coming to earth in Clay’s Ark, or the medical experimentation done on Cee in Home. The characters in each case respond differently, but there is always a sense that they will try to keep moving forward. I would call this optimism but there isn’t really anything optimistic about it. In Clay’s Ark Eli, Blake, Keira, and Rane all try to continue living their lives, but in many ways, it is just a sense of determinism coming from the organism that will not allow them to die. In Home Cee comes to accept that she will never have children, but she doesn’t do so lightly. Even in Zulus after Alice Achitophel has had a child, gone through a physical transformation, and found love with Kevin Peters, she ends up killing the rest of humanity. I wanted to say that the end of Zulus was inevitable, but for many of us it wasn’t. After we had finished reading and come to terms with what had happened there were many students, myself included, who were shocked by the fact that she would have given up on the world around her. Even towards the very end she is still trying to make her life and the life of her daughter better, but when she tries to convince Kevin Peters to help her find their child, he says to her “Alice, our daughter was dead before she was born (pg. 242).” There were many times that she could have given up before we even began reading her story, which is why it came as such a shock when she ended up making the decision with Kevin to release the Agent. The constant weight of the world around her seemingly proved to be too much, as it does for all of us at a certain point. Although her conditions were arguably worse than those most people have faced, I think everyone has come to a point in their life where it seems like there are no good options left. This idea of an event that leaves us with no “right” choice is paralleled by the history of the medical field in the U.S.
As we continued to read Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid it became easier to understand how we currently live in such a blatantly racist society. Even the fact that we still acknowledge “race” when it is a purely social construct shows that we are relying on it too much. The discussion of eugenics brought up the idea that race is based in biology, and that certain races were inherently better than others because of the genes that had been passed down. When we watched Race: The Power of an Illusion/ The Difference Between Us, we saw students with a background in biology become stuck on the idea of race, even though they knew it was a social construct. The racist structures in the U.S. specifically have become hegemonic understandings at this point. There is no discussion over what race is and isn’t, there is simply an understanding that is forced on us with no area for critique. Similarly to the fiction we read, the same general themes came up when discussing the non-fiction. If we have a society so heavily based on racist structures and ideals, how are we expected to move on as a whole? How can the medical system actually advance when there is no effort put forth to recognize the racist structures it was founded on? How are black people ever expected to fully trust the medical system if the torment of their “race” is never fully recognized? When we watched Alice Achitophel try her hardest to move on with her life in spite of everything she had already gone through, we wanted the best for her, but we were left stunned when the best did not come. In many ways, at least she was able to completely tear down the systems that had let life get that bad in the first place. As a society, maybe we need to do the same. Trying to dismantle the medical system completely seems like an impossible task, but how can we honestly move forward without doing so?