“Song of Ourselves”

Coming off our final unit on Romantic poetry, specifically a deep dive into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, we wrote a final send-off poem together, inspired by Whitman’s send-off in section 52 of “Song of Myself.”

Here is the text version of our “Song of Ourselves.”  And here is our video:

Imagine…

With our last year at OPRF coming to an unusual end, I’d like to add one last song to our playlist. Imagine by John Lennon, is a musical piece I would argue is poetic and a good listen during these times.

Within the lyrics, John envisions a world without borders, religion, and material possessions. Only with the elimination of these three can there finally be a “real” world peace. The elimination of nationalities, religion, and one’s economic class would create a unified Earth in Lennon’s mind.

Instead of focusing on John’s powerful vision of world peace, I would like you to utilize the difficult but not impossible tool Lennon encourages. Lennon guides the listener to use their imagination to envision a world without social constructs that divide us from one another. I on the other hand, encourage you to use this song to escape the confinements of your couch, bedroom, floor, wherever you are currently sitting during this lovely quarantine.

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

The above stanza is the hook for “Imagine.” It appeals to the sensuous dimension of poetry with Lennon speaking of the sensation of unity with the words “one” and “us.” The use of “one” creates a sensation of a single entity, with the choice of “us” creating a feeling of a single united entity. Lennon furthermore connects with the emotional dimension with the usage of “hope.” By using “hope,” Lennon inspires the listener making an emotional connection. Finally, Lennon continues into the imaginative dimension with the use of “dreamer.” A dreamer uses his/her imagination, and in this context Lennon is a “dreamer.” By labeling himself as a “dreamer” he inspires his listeners and followers to become like him, a dreamer.

Whether you listen to the song with focus specific to Lennon’s vision, or you utilize his lyrics to liberate yourself from quarantine and venture into the depths of possibility, Lennon’s work “Imagine” is a piece of poetry.

“Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson

In this absolutely surreal time, it is important to remember that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – Kelly Clarkson. This song is not only poetic in its lyrics, it is also inspiring during this global pandemic when things seem like they’ve hit rock bottom.

Thanks to you
I’m finally thinking about me
You know in the end
the day you left was just my beginning

One thing that really stands out about this line is the antithesis. Using “end” and “beginning” is an important contrast and it shows that although it may have been the end of a relationship for Kelly, it was the only the beginning of the rest of her life where she can really focus on herself. This really applies to us seniors because even though our senior year ended all too soon, it is really only the beginning of our lives. We have so much to look forward to.

What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn’t mean I’m over cause you’re gone

This line metaphorically explains why going through something tough makes a person stronger. Your footsteps don’t actually get lighter, you just feel better after you have been through something that was really hard. I think this is an amazing way to portray successfully getting through a struggle and it is a nice reminder to all of us that quarantine is not going to kill us. In fact, it will make us appreciate seeing friends, going to school, and being able to go out to dinner so much more.

I think that this song is a great addition to our Positivity Playlist. It helps us remember that we need to stay optimistic about our current situation because we can only go up from here.

History: A Vicious Cycle

In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy oftentimes repeats certain phrases and words. Some examples include the lines “a viable, die-able age” (pages 5, 310), “The God of Small Things” (250, 274, 312), and “tomorrow” (321) (a word that already implies repetition and routine). Roy does this specifically when writing about major plot points. These include Ammu and Velutha’s relationship being contrasted with Estha and Rahel’s incestuous encounter. The breaking of the Love Laws in these affairs, and the constant occurrences of loss and mortality throughout the novel. 

When these themes are being detailed, Roy describes them using phrases that are often repeated when discussing separate, but similar, events. In doing so, she is able to communicate the idea that they’re not the only thing happening again and again in this novel. Rather, they are used to create a sense of deja vu that effectively expresses one idea. Where these phrases pop up, again and again, something else is repeating too: the breaking of the Love Laws, the re-enacting of history, and the human inclination toward carnal gratification. We are constantly making the same mistakes, breaking the same rules, and dying in the same ways as our ancestors. 

History, Roy argues, is shaped like a circle. Mankind gladly enforces it through acts of defiance and rebellion that echo those or the past. By using certain words and symbols over and over again, she signals to the reader when she’s detailing an event that has happened, in some way or shape, before when someone is repeating history when it is more evident than ever that repetition lies in the nature of humanity.

Orientalism in Pop Culture

While watching the Orientalism video, Edward Said mentioned the presence of Orientalism in Hollywood. This got me thinking and I decided to do a little research on it. I was shocked to see that some really popular movies had scenes that portrayed middle eastern people as dangerous and violent.

One of the most surprising examples for me was from Back to the Future. I remembered the scene in which Libyan terrorists were shooting at Doc Brown. I think the most disturbing thing about this is that the times I have watched this movie, I never gave this scene a second thought. It never occurred to me how racist it was to choose Libyans as the terrorists coming out of nowhere to shoot at Doc and Marty.

The Libyans | Futurepedia | Fandom

This shows me that Orientalism is rooted in a lot of us because of the society we live in today. It makes me sad that I have unknowingly learned that middle eastern terrorists are normal. It’s making me wonder what other forms of Orientalism are occurring in pop culture today that I have been oblivious to. I’m hoping that learning about this topic will help me see racism towards middle eastern people that I have never noticed before.

Orientalism in New Girl (Spoiler Alert)

One of my favorite television shows of all time is New Girl that ended a few years ago. The characters are all endearingly weird in their own way and they get themselves into so many funny situations. New Girl has become a comfort show to me as mac and cheese is some people’s comfort food. That being said, because I love it so much, I feel that it is necessary that I criticize it and it’s Othering of Hinduism, displayed in the character, Cece.

About New Girl with Zooey Deschanel on FOX

New Girl is a sitcom about a girl named Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who gets cheated on by her ex-boyfriend and is forced to find a new apartment in LA. She ends up finding a listing on Craigslist for an apartment that needs a new roommate. She ends up moving into this apartment with three men: Schmidt (far left), Nick (second to the right), and Winston (furthest to the right), and shenanigans ensue.

Cece Parekh | New Girl Wiki | Fandom

Cece is portrayed as Jess’s hot, wild-child best friend. Because of this, Cece doesn’t feel like she belongs in her Indian/Hindu culture. To stick with this premise, it seems that the writers rely on Orientalism to accentuate her differences and make her drawn toward Schmidt, the self-proclaimed “douche bag.” This is most apparent in season two when Cece is suddenly fixated on getting married in order not to disappoint her family and to have children. Cece also does this in opposition to Schmidt, who is her ex-boyfriend at the time because she thinks that he is not ready to be serious with her, which is what she needs if she wants to have children soon. When Schmidt comes over to her apartment in an attempt to win her back, Cece does something that the writers portray as “drastic,” which is to call her mother and ask for an arranged marriage, something that is very common in Indian/Hindu culture.

It is further clear that the purpose of the arranged marriage premise is Othering rather than for the purpose of exploration or acceptance when Schmidt assumes that Cece doesn’t want to get married to the person that she is arranged with and attempts to ruin her wedding. This results in Cece confessing that this is not what she wants. This implies not only that the writers find arranged marriages somewhat barbaric and outdated, which is a fundamental element of Orientalism.

This is just one example of how Orientalism is used in the writing and character development of this show. In order for Cece to married to Schmidt, she has to disregard her mother’s disapproval. The show begs Cece to be estranged from her culture due to the fact that it doesn’t seem appropriate in the American culture that she lives in.

Orientalism as it is used in this show is a perfect example of how media can distort public perception of a culture and how people experience it.

Trauma in God of Small Things

Throughout the novel, God of Small Things explicitly says that Sophie Mol’s death is the catalyst for the destruction and subsequent dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family. However, it is possible that the subtext of the novel suggests an underlying cause of this dissemination: trauma. Each and every character experiences unspoken trauma in their own way, manifesting itself into brittle family ties, the breaking point being Sophie Mol’s death. Although her death ultimately did lead to its dissemination, trauma was the underlying cause of the state of the family after Sophie Mol’s death, exhibited by how all of Rahel, Estha, and Ammu’s actions leading to Sophie Mol’s are predicated by each of their individual traumas.

Early on in the novel, Arundhati Roy explains that Ammu moves in with Mammachi and Pappachi because her alcoholic husband was abusive. At first, Pappachi has a hard time believing this because he was a wealthy Christian Englishman. Additionally, she was physically emotionally abused by her father who was also a wealthy businessman. Ammu began resenting her children because, “…their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them…,”(42).  Her trauma from her past relationships is part of why she acts in the way that she does. She begins resenting wealthy Englishmen, which may have been part of why she fell in love with and had an affair with Velutha, who was a dark-skinned, lower class and Marxist man. This is significant because this leads to Mammachi and Baby Kochamma locking her in her room so that she would not see Velutha any longer, which leads to her lashing out at her children, saying that she did not love them and blames them for her situation. Her anger at this moment at them clearly is rooted in her resentment toward her children due to their naivety and connection to her ex-husband, despite them clearly having little to do with Mammachi and Baby Kochamma’s actions. This leads to them running away and rowing a boat down the river, the boat tipping over, and Sophie Mol eventually drowning. Sophie Mol becomes a symbol of how when trauma is unspoken, it can cause great distress to a person’s relationships. So much so in this case that it leads to Sophie Mol dying and Estha and Rahel having to move away, and their family to be destroyed as Ammu goes to “fend for herself”.

This is also exhibited by Estha’s trauma within the story. When Estha is at the movie theater to see The Sound of Music, he is sexually assaulted by the “Orangedrink Lemondrink Man.” Estha is traumatized by this and becomes afraid of the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man because he knows where he lives. This becomes a significant part of his decision to run away, besides Ammu telling him to go because he realizes that, “(1) Anything can happen to anyone. and (2) It’s best to be prepared,” (186). He realized the best preparation to protect himself from Orangedrink Lemondrink Man is to leave the place where Orangedrink Lemondrink knows he lives. It is his and Rahel’s combined efforts of running away, and heading to the History house. Sophie Mol tags along, and ends up drowning, causing her death. This decision making caused by Estha’s effort to avoid trauma, because of his past trauma.

Rahel’s trauma is somewhat smaller but still important to the accumulation of trauma that led to Sophie Mol’s death and the subsequent dissemination of her family. After seeing The Sound of Music Rahel makes a snide comment about how Ammu should marry the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, unaware of his encounter with Estha. To this, Ammu responds, “‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less…’,” (107). This is traumatic to Rahel because it makes her believe that Ammu does not love her. She continues to think this when Sophie Mol arrives and is adored by everyone in her family. This thought process is the precursor to her, Estha and Sophie Mol’s decision to leave because of both her ideas that Ammu didn’t love her, and Estha’s ideas that lead them to leave and try to get to History House by boat.

The accumulation of trauma here is clearly the catalyst for the dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family rather than merely Sophie Mol’s death.