This entry is a reflection on a work of literature by Anzia Yezierska, the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., social justice, and gun legislation in the United States. I feel especially passionate about this piece of writing, as it touches on some of my most fundamental and precious ideals. My world has become a tumultuous place as of late, and I ponder on the meaning of the American Dream in juxtaposition to my citizenry, personal life, and position as a student.
I’m writing this on the night of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This weekend has been a great one. Today, I spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with some timeless friends. I normally don’t have such time or money to relish in exuberance, but today, I traveled to IKEA for some adventure. We ate meatballs, wondered the furniture filled halls, and sang She’s So Heavy from the tops of our lungs. (Side note: the food was cheap relative to its quality, I loved it.) We also took this photo of me, pretending to be the über-famed IKEA monkey sans sheep-skin coat.
^^^^Click the IKEA monkey to learn more!^^^^
But, I should go on. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not about the IKEA monkey, the meatballs, or furniture-filled wanderings with friends. Martin Luther Kin, Jr. Day is about the legacy of one of the greatest Americans to ever live. He is an icon of progressiveness, civil rights, and civil disobedience. A master of the spoken word, rhetoric, and fluency of thought. I mean, this guy was truly brilliant. He was the son of a preacher and his spirituality helped shaped his pacifism. We’re talking about a true follower of Christ, here. A man, who actually followed the philosophy of Jesus with deliberation and great fervor. He read the Bible with comprehension and drew from the morals, which facilitated his development as a good person. I wish this “Christian-Nation” could follow his example.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a brilliant leader. A peace-warrior, who combated racial inequality through non-violence. He was like Gandhi, a man of humility, dignity, and righteous justice. He learned to use Ahisma, to open the eyes of the United States and world to the malicious oppression of people of color. I respect the man and I value what he has done for our nation. If only he could’ve lived longer. Rest in peace, Dr. King…
However, I’m left with a sour feeling in my stomach. It only takes me a few moments of thought, but I’m almost sure Dr. King is clawing at his grave right now. He would not stand idly with the atrocities that still ravage our country. His job was never finished.
There is a disproportionate and evil violence that still effects the United States.
Women, LGBT, peoples-of-color, the poor, and several other groups are constantly under the scrupulously malignant cloud of prejudice and sick abandon by the United States. Legislation and de facto laws hinder the advancement of egalitarian possibility in this nation and the people are desensitized by the media and government to the reality of these vicious practices. Regardless of what you may believe or heard, these peoples do not have the same opportunities as others in this nation. How in the hell can you truly know, unless you walked a day in their shoes? Well, I know, because people wouldn’t be begging for things if they already had them.
The people who are oppressed unwillingly live in a glass-cage of tyranny. We need visionaries to open the eyes of the masses, so they see the shameless lies and relentless strangulating bars which enclose the people. We need visionaries like Dr. King, who stood up against the face of evil and proclaimed to its snarling visage, “I have a dream!“
Even though I’ve only mentioned matters of prejudice and desensitization, it is from ignorance that the majority of fear and hate stems. I reflect to the racism I’ve witnessed in my life and the people who’ve committed acts of hate. They’re misguided, lost, and ignorant. They do not look deeper, past the veneer of their upbringing or formulation, to question things.
We need people to be skeptic, to question authority. We need people to educate themselves and understand where others are coming from. A person is never as simple as they seem and they need love, not someone telling them, “No, because I hate what you are. I hate the fibre of your being.”
We are all just the same meaty flesh-bags, occupying this watery rock that exists three spaces from Sol. People need to love their brothers and sisters. So, send good energy to those around you. And, I challenge you to befriend or get to know someone who challenges you. We all have our pretensions, but to paraphrase Harvey Milk, If you get to know one of the people you hate, you’ll hate them less.
So, to move on to another topic…
Gun Laws…. duh, duh, DUHHH!
Now, if you didn’t already know, I love to write. Perhaps that’s why this entry is going to be as long as The Canterbury Tales when I’m finished… But, I love writing. Which has put me in some interesting places at interesting times. For instance, July 20th 2012, in a theatre in Lawrence, Kansas. You’re probably thinking, “What the hell does that have to do with anything???” Yet, you’re still interested. Hmm… There’s still more to this date and location.
And, there is!
I was with my ex, and were watching The Dark Knight Rises. I had plans to write a film review of the Christopher Nolan “flop”. Which, I did. But, we also went to enjoy the fun of the cinema. I really didn’t enjoy the film. Sincerely, I did not, but I watched the whole thing. So, at around 3:00 am, or whenever that mammoth ended, we walked out of the theater. We laughed about Anne Hathaway, the people who were weird in the theater, and the fact that I didn’t like the movie and everyone else did. It was a jolly good time.
We go to our town-home and I started writing. I researched the actors, actresses, and all the other film people and went-to-town, Batman style. Well, it just so happens, as I’m looking up the cinematographer for TDKR, I see something interesting “pop-up” in my google feed. “Shooting in Colorado”. Well, I see that in the news all the time… shootings, death, and dismay… but, I also see underneath: “Shooting in Cinema” “Death at the Dark Knight Rises” etc. etc.
So, it turns out, a psychopathic guy with joker-red hair brutally murders a theater full of people. Insane, right? But, to think, I was in a theater, one state away, just laughing my ass off about the bad acting, while people are screaming for their lives because a crazy man is killing them.
It disturbed me.
I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up all night. Because of that damned shooting, my review got read thousands of times. But, at what price was my writing becoming popular? I watched the TODAY Show and listened to Matt Lauer speak about the developing happenings. I just couldn’t stop the thoughts. That coulda been us! That coulda been us! That coulda been us!
Obviously, this isn’t the first experience I have with gun violence. But, it reminded me of how fragile and mortal we are as people in this world. How at any moment, when we least expect it, someone could barrel through the doors of our sanctuary, whether it be a cinema, church, or classroom and put a bullet in our head. BOOM! Game over.
So, you probably have an idea now of how I feel about guns. I really really really don’t like them. But, you don’t even know the half of it. It’s not just the shootings, but the people who have these damned weapons. I reflect on a student who went to my high school. He committed suicide. It destroyed so many people. He may’ve committed suicide anyway, but the gun definitely made it a whole lot easier.
I think of a time when I was in high school, when I was at my girlfriend’s house. She cried in my arms because her father, in a drunken stupor, stayed up all night with a double-barrel in his mouth threatening to leave this world.
It makes me sick.
I think of the screams the children must’ve cried at Sandy Hook.
I think of the students whose voices were silenced at Columbine.
I think of the victims of war, who everyday, die at the barrel of a gun.
I think of the Kent State Shootings.
How can the big wigs sleep at night knowing people are suffering?
It is in our constitution, that we have the right to bear arms. But, do we really need arms that can massacre dozens of people at once? Should they be so easy to obtain?
My answer: No.
My belief system is based on Buddhism which has also shaped my feelings in regards to guns. I do not believe it is ever acceptable to kill.
It’s not all just based on my feelings and spirituality though. Click this link to learn some harrowing gun facts (with sources)!
So, to move on to another subject.
The American Dream. What is the American Dream? Well, to me, the American Dream means a lot of different things. I believe the definition is different to everyone.
I believe it is about actualizing your potential. I believe it is about discovering what you want to do and being able to do it. I believe it’s about reaching that point where you can give not only to yourself, but to others as well.
I also believe the American Dream is dead. I don’t believe it exists. We are a country of rags to riches and riches to rags. We are a country of disparity.
I don’t need to go too in depth on this topic, because this entry is preachy enough.
Just know this: I did not get the same opportunity in this country. I had to battle my way to where I am and I’m not always sure it’s worth it yet. If you sell yourself (to the loan, debt etc.) on the way to sustainability, is it worth it?
So, finally, to literature.
This portion of the entry is concerning a work by Anzia Yezierska.
On the first or second day of class (I can’t remember), we were handed a story by Anzia Yezierska titled: The Lost “Beautifulness.” It is a story of hopes, dreams, and the crushing truth of reality. It’s a wake-up call of social realism, social commentary, and… the American Dream.
Hanneh Hayyeh, a jewess of Manhattan’s lower east-side is a hard working Russian immigrant. For weeks, she has been saving her pennies in order to revamp the kitchen of her dilapidated tenement. She wishes to become like a fulfilled American.
She idolizes the kitchen as a beacon of democracy and self-actualization. Her husband on the other hand, sees this ambition as a waste of time and effort. He doesn’t manage to quiet her sprits though. She wants to have a nice home for her son Aby to come home from war to.
After some time, her kitchen is finished. People from around the neighborhood visit and obsess over the glamourous sheen of it’s white walls. Hanneh feels elated by the approving attention she receives from her work.
However, things go awry and the landlord (or slumlord, more like) raises the rent by five dollars. Which, back in those days, was a big deal. She’s devastated and he really doesn’t care. He blames it on her kitchen renovation, which hurts her to the core.
She fights the matter in court, but the courts settle on the side of the landlord.
As Aby comes home, he sees his mother on the curb with her belongings.
In my opinion, this story pretty much encapsulates the falsehoods of capitalism and the “american dream” paradigm.
My other feelings are accurately aforementioned.