Impossibilities Easy: Interchangeable Usages of the Word Violence. Does violence win in the end?

By Katlin McNeil

Violence is “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” When typing violence into the search engine, one can find this standard definition on Google. Still, after taking an entire course dedicated to the word violence and the actions behind that word, this definition does not encompass what violence is behavioral. Violence is more than just the intention of harming someone, but how someone might do that. Violence can come from power, waste, and care. Davina Ward states, “Violence can exist as care.” Saidiya Hartman asserted, “Care is the antidote to violence.” Ward and Hartman take a stand on where the word violence has taken the most impact and harm towards others, but what if both are correct in their answers? Violence can be care while at the same time, care can help combat the violence at hand. It is all about the person’s intentions behind the words and actions they decided beforehand. This idea that violence can come from power, waste, and care shows prominently in the popular movie “I Care a Lot” directed by J Blakeson. The popular movie of 2020 shows how caring can be used as a violent act. The main character Maria Grayson is portrayed by actress Rosamund Pike who embarks on taking ‘care’ of elderly people, ultimately putting herself in charge of their financial holdings. Grayson becomes the sole caretaker of the elderly people who live within a home, starting a persona that she cares deeply about their needs and wants. Still, once she gets a hold of their financial holdings, she takes their money and lets them fend for themselves. This is what it means to use care as an act of violence. Violence can be used to manipulate the public into thinking one cares.

Violence is a vital course concept that we were instilled within our class right from the get-go, with it being one of the first essays we read where it stated, “Violence is the performance of waste.” Joseph Roach and his concepts have been the center of the class understanding from his article about Hurricane Katrina, Cities of the Dead Circum Atlantic Performace, “Echoes in the Bone.” When it comes to the concept of care being an act of violence, this shows throughout Roach’s idea of violence too. The portrayal of violence happens in many ways. However, care is something that many do not think about, but what if not only care can exist through violence but through existing through care and waste simultaneously? Hurricane Katrina was a horrible natural disaster that changed lives forever. Still, with the performance of care as an act of violence, Katrina’s victims and survivors had the worst outcomes due to the care given by the United States government. Roach uses the idea of the United States government using violence against the Katrina victims and survivors to show how they were depicted as waste just in the same context as the United States government uses care as an act of violence. The United States government knew about the levees that broke, causing severe flooding within New Orleans once Hurricane Katrina hit the city, resulting in many deaths rather than Hurricane Katrina. The government knew but did not intervene until it was too late. They tried to instill acts of care, but this resulted in more violence. The government relocated many of the Katrina survivors to get them out of New Orleans but ONLY bought a one-way ticket for victims, causing them to be stranded in an unknown place without people they knew with nothing, resulting in them being alone in isolation after losing their livelihoods in New Orleans. This caused them more harm than good. This act of ‘care’ resulted in violence towards those individuals not being able to go home to New Orleans, which was very sacred to them. This idea that New Orleans residents could not go back home and had to move was a tremendous event for them since most residents of New Orleans are known to be ‘born and raised’ within the city, never wanting to leave, which can be seen prominently throughout, the documentary series “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” by Spike Lee. Spike Lee interviews real people who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina, following them throughout their journeys of recovery from the storm. Lee gives the survivors and victims the power, allowing them to have a voice about what has been genuinely happening to them by the United States government in the aftermath of the Hurricane. 

The act of care through violence can be seen clearly throughout this course, but there are times when care can combat violence done to a community. The Hurricane Katrina survivors often find themselves being ‘saved’ not by the government but by their people and people representing their identities. Through many representations of art and craft, people have helped reclaim the voices of the Katrina survivors to help reclaim that idea of care being genuine instead of an act of violence. “Blood Dazzler” by Patricia Smith helps show this through her poems of raw emotions that many would have felt and been dealing with before, during, and after the hurricane. Of the many poems, Smith’s poem 34 showcases a side that is left undiscussed within horrific events, the elderly. “St. Bernard Parish, L.A., Sept. 7 (UPI)-Thirty-four bodies were found drowned in a nursing home where people did not evacuate. More than half the residents of St. Rita’s Nursing Home, 20 miles southeast from downtown New Orleans, died August 29 when floodwater from Hurricane Katrina reached the home’s roof (Smith 50). This is one of the first times a forgotten group of individuals is remembered and memorized. Elders are often expenditures by society, being one of the first groups to be left alone to defend themselves. Smith helps highlight the individuals lost through this tragedy while showing their voices are heard. 

One idea lingering from this course is that one can carefully combat violence like the victims of Hurricane Katrina and other horrid natural and unnatural disasters. Violence causes a lasting effect on the individual state of being that makes them rewire their daily habits and needs, but there is a process to get through this: mourning. The behavior that has struck the most is the first and second lines of a funeral possession within New Orleans. The “first line” is where all members who knew that person walk along mourning the person they have lost on the way to the funeral, after which the funeral is considered ‘over.’ The “second line” begins with anyone being able to join in to celebrate the life of the person lost. As Nicole Young states in her article The New Orleans Funeral reminds us that grief is a burden that can be shared, “the term second line refers to the crowd of community members and mourners who follow the first line of the parade — the casket, family, and musicians. In New Orleans, that first line includes percussion alongside a brass band, with trumpeters, tubists, and trombonists like Agee. Funeral second lines are community events, with sometimes hundreds of people joining the procession….” The second line allows life to begin again through grief, paying tribute to the lost life. The idea of mourning, memorizing, and celebrating life after a tragedy done through violence can be combated by care itself, as the second line in New Orleans does. The city’s people did this to mourn, memorize, and celebrate the life lost after Hurrian Katrina went around the city, trying to rebuild it within the idea of a ‘second-line’ possession.  Memorization of the horrific events of Katrina can be captured below within this memorial that shows the water levels that once filled the city, causing the deaths of many individuals. 

This image shows the level markers in which Hurricane Katrina was—taken by the Washington Post.

Not only has the memorization of the people of Hurricane Katrina been in effect to try and combat the usage of violence throughout the whole disaster, but to try and bring care and comfort to the people still living. Through the play, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, the ending of the play captures this idea perfectly within the epilogue, “now my charms are all o’verthrown, and what strength I have’s mine own, which is most faint: now, ‘t is true,…in this bare island by your spell; but realize me from my bands with the help of your good hands…mercy itself, and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardon’d be, let your indulgence set me free” (Shakespeare 69). The epilogue captures the true emotions of mourning and grief, trying to get on with one’s life and close that section of one’s life. Nevertheless, this survivor is still guilty of being alive while the others are not around one. One feels guilty for living through this tragedy while they did not cause one to ask for the dead victims to release one , the survivor, from this turmoil of guilt. This is why memorizing, remembrance, and celebration of life are so pivotal. They help combat this violence one puts within oneself because one uses care to showcase that one also cares about the ones lost but not forgotten. 

No matter how much care can is inflicted through violence, the act of care can always combat the violence. The people within numbers have the strength to ease each other’s pain caused by others. This is why communities are so important because they help ensure that people are cared for even after violent acts are committed against them. The United States government used to care as an act of violence against the people of New Orleans and those affected by Hurricane Katrina by minimizing their trauma and connection to their city of New Orleans. No matter how much the government minimized or tried to minimize them, the people of New Orleans always found a way back to their community through memorization, grief, traditions, celebration, and rebuilding. Not acknowledging the ones lost during Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters worldwide would minimize the number of people who did not get to be a part of rebuilding their community. Not everyone returned to the ‘second line’ to celebrate the rebuilding of their city, dead and alive, due to the relocation of those left after the disaster and never made it back to New Orleans and known knowledge of the levees being unstable for a hurricane by the United States government kept from the people of New Orleans. Care, power, and waste are all used as an act of violence against the people of New Orleans, which can be seen today as having a last impact on the people there. However, no matter what the cost, a community like New Orleans will try and combat the care being the act of violence by the government by replacing it with community care themselves. People will always rebuild, but that trauma will also be embedded within them for future generations. 

Works Cited

Ambrose, Kevin. “New Orleans: Then and Now Photos, 16 Years after Katrina.” The Washington

Post, WP Company, 29 Aug. 2021,


MobileReference. The Tempest: By William Shakespeare., 2008. 

Roach, Joseph R. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. Columbia University Press,


Smith, Patricia. Blood Dazzler: Poems. Coffee House Press, 2008.

“When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” IMDb,, 21 Aug. 2006,

Young, Nicole. “The New Orleans Funeral Reminds Us That Grief Is a Burden That Can Be

Shared.” Vox, Vox, 21 Jan. 2022,


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