Thursday, January 24, 2013

Inequalities will always plague our existence

The play Death and the Maiden, written by Ariel Dorfman and the poems “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, “Accident, Mass. Ave.,” by Jill McDonough and “Learning to Read” by E.W. Harper present worlds filled with inequalities, while Fr. Peter-Hans Klovenbach states in his essay “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education,” that equality is possible. Although Father Klovenbach presents a wonderful case for equality being reached through education, the reality of the situation is that true equality cannot and will not be reached. The history of the world is not one of acceptance and toleration, it is quite the opposite; history is filled with discrimination and hatred that dates back to the beginning of man. However, by no means should anyone stop trying to attain equality for the fact that it is impossible, for it is then that inequalities will grow and further divide us.
As Death and the Maiden, which as directed by Claudio Silva, unfolds, it is quickly revealed that the lead, and only, female character suffers from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The maiden, Paulina, is haunted by her kidnapping that took place fifteen years prior every waking moment that she is alone. Her fear envelopes her life and is closing in on all she believes in. When she recognizes the voice of a man as he enters her home as the doctor who took part in her kidnapping, rape and torture she acts irrationally tieing him up and threatening to kill him if he does not confess and repent. Her husband Gerardo, a lawyer wishing to save the world, does not believe her accusations against this man, Dr. Miranda. Both men agree that she has been driven insane and they agree to create a false confession to appease her and set her free from her past. These men, acting as the heroes of Paulina’s life, see her as less than them. She is merely a woman that they need to free of her torment; a woman who cannot move on from the past on her own, forgive and then forget. They pity her so much so that they try to lie to her and make her feel bad for suffering from PTSD. Similarly, in “Learning to Read” E.W. Harper tells the story of countless slaves and their desire to read. It is certainly no secret that people who did not share a skin tone with caucasians were considered subhuman for over a century and still face hardships harbored from inequalities and lesser treatment. Whereas Father Kolvenbach promotes knowledge as the great equalizer, E.W. Harper points out that “Knowledge did’nt agree with Slavery-- Twould make us all too wise” (lines 5 and 6). E.W. Harper understood, even as a slave, that knowledge was the wall separating black and white people in America, and that those in charge understood it too and intended to keep it that way. Father Klovenbach sees education as a way to escape the inequalities that plague our society, but when these inequalities are so deeply rooted and have been a foundation for our world today, it is extremely hard to let them go.
Robert Frost notes that “we keep the wall between us as we go,” as a barrier to protect our ignorance. Though no matter how many times we build up the walls, you need “to use a spell” to keep them in place (lines 15, 18). The repetition of the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors” confirms that people are blissfully ignorant in their misunderstanding of each other (lines 26, 45). These misunderstandings easily lead to unwarranted hatred, as Jill McDonough displays in her poem. Although the ignorance displayed in the interaction between the young driver and the older, foreign female driver ends on a positive tone, it does not began that way. Based on assumptions and preconceived notions of how people are supposed to react to car accidents in Boston, hateful words are shared between these two strangers without a tangible reason. The narrator assumes that the old woman is a careless driver based on stereotypes created from inequalities conceived long ago. But once the narrator realizes her mistake, she begins to realize how silly her assumption was. These inequalities we construct lead to stereotypes that everyone believes and most of them can be traced back to fear.
As the narrator discovers that they “were scared” and the older woman simply nods in agreement, it become clearly obvious that our inequalities are formed from our fears. Fear that the black man will over take our plantation and kill us. Fear that we will lose our power. Fear that without the wall we will not get along. Father Klovenbach sees that “When the heart is touched by direct experiences, the mind may be challenged to change,” but what he does not see is that fears cannot always be so easily changed. In the case of the car accident, the mistake was easy to spot and forgive, but the process of education takes a lot longer when years of hatred have been passed down for generations and have been fueled by monetary wealth and prosperity. Fear and a lack of education is a lot harder to overcome when it means uprooting your entire lifestyle. Although we should never give up on our hope of abolishing inequalities in our world, it is a dream that may never truly be realized.

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