The Collective Course Statement Assignment: What I Learned


At the beginning of this course, I was not expecting the collective course statement to take the shape that it did. I imagined it would turn out more like a PowerPoint presentation where we would assemble into our little groups, work on our solutions for a few class days, and then give small group presentations to the whole class via one of Microsoft Office’s oldest pieces of software. However, this is not at all how this project turned out, and I’m so grateful for that.

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Abel Opens the Gates

In this class, we see that there are multiple crosswalks among disciplines and the pieces of literature we read, such as ideas relating to consent, medical malpractice, and racism. Not surprisingly, I also see a connection between Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One among the literature read in class, as well as texts read outside of it.

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Do Not Resuscitate: a Follow-Up to Implied Consent

In one of my last couple of blog posts, I discussed the topic of implied consent in the context of DUIs. Essentially, if you deny a breathalyzer test, you may not be charged with a DUI, but your driver’s license can be suspended for 6-months and you may be fined $500. However, implied consent refers to more than just potential cases of DUIs. In many cases, especially when emergency health services are called upon, this type of consent is relevant. If the patient is unconscious or unresponsive, medical professionals will typically take all measures to ensure the patient survives with or without his or her consent.

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The American Phoenix: A Follow-Up

Last week I published a blog post comparing the phoenix to the bald eagle. As a recap, I discussed the adoption of the phoenix as the national bird in Zone One by Colson Whitehead. The United States now even refers to itself as the American Phoenix, and sells merchandise depicting the mythical creature in order to foster cohesion among the survivors, while giving them a sense of optimism. They even refer to the bird as the “pheenie” (Whitehead 99), as they become friendlier with the concept. Later in my post, I compared mortalities of the birds–the bald eagle is said to lead a long life, while the phoenix lives for hundreds of years, dies in a burst of flames, and is reborn from the ashes.

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Implied Consent

A couple weeks ago, I finally took my 5-hour pre-licensing course with a suitemate of mine in Fairport, NY. Now, spending 5 hours of your Sunday afternoon learning the rules of the road instead of doing your homework or essentially anything else is tedious in nature. My only solace was watching my suitemate, a Long Island native, scrunch her face up in confusion whenever someone mentioned Ayrault Road or gave any reference to passive driving. However, some productivity did arise from this class (aside from the certificate)–we learned the rules of “implied consent”.

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The American Phoenix

After the apocalypse in Zone One by Colson Whitehead, drastic changes have been made in the political structure of the United States. America is now referred to as the American Phoenix, and Buffalo, NY is now the capital city. For those of us native to western New York, this pulls our heartstrings a little bit. It’s endearing and somewhat comical. However, what comes as more of a strange shock is that the bird that once represented our country–the bald eagle–has been dethroned and replaced with a fiery mythological bird Continue reading “The American Phoenix”


I’m sure most of us are familiar with the term PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’re used to hearing about PTSD it in the context of war and active combat, it’s also prevalent after experiencing natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault, and other life-threatening events. However, in the novel Zone One by Colson Whitehead, a psychotherapist named Dr. Neil Herkimer presents a new diagnosis: PASD, or Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder.  While I was reading about the condition, I was wondering why it wasn’t just called PTSD. I assumed that an event such as the one the novel focuses on (the apocalypse) would fall under the same category. After googling and reading more about PTSD, I realized how wrong I was.


Both conditions entail symptoms such as changes in sleeping habits, weight gain or weight loss, nightmares, feeling jittery and paranoid, loss of energy, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of death, dying, and suicide, as well as negative thinking in general. These are only some of the existing similarities.

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The Oppression of Women’s Bodies

Humankind has a history of oppressing women’s bodies. Foot binding, the restrictions of gender roles, and unreasonable societal expectations of age and beauty are all timeless examples of this oppression. However, a relevant issue in the United States is reproductive rights. While there are few efforts made to encourage the development of new forms of male contraception, hundreds of provisions have been made in 2017 alone to restrict abortion access at the state level. Percival Everett’s Zulus contains many examples of injustice at the sake of the female body, with Alice Achitophel as our victim of it.

Alice Achitophel lives in a post-thermonuclear war society, where each woman is expected to be sterilized. Due to Alice’s weight (300 pounds) she believes she has no reason to have the procedure done because she probably won’t have sex. “She had thought to herself then that the people at the hospital had seen her and knew she was fat and ugly and could see from her file that she was an old maid, probably knew that she had never kept company with a man” (12). First, the readers see that this sterilization is forced and therefore not the women’s choice, which is just another example of this oppression. Secondly, Alice Achitophel believes she is unworthy of love and intimacy because of her weight, which is clearly an idea that’s been instilled by society. Her unattractiveness is not a fact, but a matter of opinion. Alice is referred to as the “fat woman” multiple times throughout the novel, suggesting that this objective description may be the only way see her.

A coworker of mine told me over the summer that she lost her health care because she made more money than usual the prior month, and that she was no longer able to pay for her birth control or many other health services. While birth control technically isn’t considered necessary, so many people want to use it that its price and accessibility are a prominent issue in modern America. While the women in Zulus aren’t given the option of contraceptives, this situation still connects to the novel in the sense that the government makes it difficult to make choices regarding one’s own body.

“…the opening body yielding the complete woman, full of the brain and emotions of her fat mother, earth mother, Alice Achitophel” (109). When Alice gives birth, she gives birth to a more attractive version of herself–a rebirth, in a sense. This new Alice is more determined and confident. This situation in nature is a contradiction to obsolete ideas of how women should behave and the expectations placed upon them. While the end of the novel is morbid because Kevin Peters and Alice pull the lever and end the world, it’s also empowering. The end reminds us that even those who are oppressed can always resist.

A Cycle of Hate

“You could be inside, living in your own house for years, and still, men with or without badges but always with guns could force you, your family, your neighbors to pack up and move–with or without shoes” (Morrison 9).

When I first began reading Home by Toni Morrison, I was intrigued by this quote immediately. This quote is from chapter 2 of the novel, where Frank Money is planning his escape from the mental institution, but unfortunately he lacks a pair of shoes and is afraid that his barefeet will give him away and indicate a lack of purpose. The quote is profound–it encompasses the tribulations of many minority groups (but specifically African Americans) in a sentence. The line suggests that even men without government power can forcefully remove black men, like Frank, from their homes with or without guns simply because they’re white. What struck me most about the quote and what led me to remember it even when I was close to the end of the novel, was the part of the quote that didn’t surprise me: the dehumanization aspect. These white men with guns force these people to leave with or without shoes, a typically essential article of clothing. Often times nakedness is associated with vulnerability, weakness, and many times a lack of respect. Without shoes, these people are seen as devoid of purpose. They are seen as people who don’t need shoes because they aren’t going anywhere important. They are being dehumanized.

I took a class in high school called Holocaust, Genocide and Breaking Down the Walls of Hate. The class was an elective and catered to a heterogeneous group of students–it was composed of students in different grade levels, students from AP classes and regents classes alike. The class essentially aimed to teach students how to recognize genocide, and one of these ways was to understand how genocide is effectively implemented. One of these essential tools is dehumanization. In order to convince oneself to hate & harm one’s enemy and feel the least remorse possible is to treat this person or group of people as an animal or as less than human.

Frank, who has been oppressed and dehumanized throughout his whole life, is, however, still guilty of these same crimes. Hate is a learned behavior, and Frank has learned it (unfortunately) too well. Towards the end of the novel, as he recounts an experience during the war, the readers come to understand that Frank shoots a young Korean girl when she reaches for his crotch after realizing she was caught looking through the garbage in search of food. Frank, feeling tempted by her, decides to shoot her (133). “How could I let her live after she took me down to a place I didn’t know was in me?” (136). Frank sees the Korean girl as the temptation. He sees her as a reflection of the most disgusting parts of himself–the parts he doesn’t like; he doesn’t see her as human. Instead of stopping himself, he stops her, essentially blaming her for an act to which he could have disagreed and stopped. While Frank Money is clearly the product of a system of racism and oppression, I think there are two questions that beg to be answered: 1) doesn’t Frank killing and dehumanizing this girl make him just as cruel as the people and systems who have hurt him? And finally, 2) how can this cycle of hate be eradicated or at least improved?
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