Terrorists Working From Home?

“Where is the Love?” was a lead single released on June 16th 2003 as a part of the Black Eyed Peas’ album “Elephunk”. The song was a huge success and was able to hit 8th on the US Billboard Hot 100s charts and was nominated for “Record of the Year”, and “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. The song was written about the state of the United States post-9/11 and had some very important messages that can be applied to the current condition of the world as well. The main theme/message of the song is that the US should first focus on resolving the problems within its own borders before getting involved with foreign conflicts outside of them. The use of language in this song is very complex and creates a unique experience for the listener. The lyrics to “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas is in fact poetry.

The first usage of poetic language appears right at the beginning of the song.

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

The word choice in these lines is very poetic and does a great job of providing the listener with a central message. In this excerpt, the word “terrorist” is used in a very unique way that helps the song deliver this central message effectively. The first appearance of the word is conventional but the second appearance is much more abstract.  It is easy for the reader to picture terrorists in foreign countries plotting against the USA. However, most people would not consider America’s own people to be terrorists as well. Many know about “The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK” but probably do not regard their members as terrorists. The repeated use of the word terrorist, bridges the problems happening abroad with our own, and creates a sense of similarity. The word choice is able to convey that all the issues happening within the US borders are just as big of a threat to the American people as the terrorism threats happening globally.

This next excerpt is my personal favorite usage of poetic language from the song lyrics.

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah

In these lines, The Black Eyed Peas provide insight as to how discrimination escalates conflict in the US. Having love for your own race is commonly seen as a very positive thing. However, these lyrics bring up the fact that having too much love for the people of your same race can actually result in distancing from the other races (ultimately leading to conflict). The purpose of these lines is to teach the reader to accept all people, not just those similar to you. The use of the first two lines mentioning “love” and “discrimination” allow the listener to remember and retain the message more clearly. In these lines, the rejection of “loving your race too much” first creates the enticing hook, and then the clever mention of how this actually facilitates more discrimination adds great depth and imagery to a unique take on how to combat discrimination (by identifying its cause).

This final excerpt provides the reader with a topic that relates directly to our current situation in 2020.

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images, is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria

The goal of these lines is to prevent the corruption of our youths’ minds by sometimes false or biased news from the media. The lyricist uses a hyperbole and metaphor on the third line in order to produce an image in the reader’s head of what a child succumbing to the gradual brainwashing via the media would look like. I also noticed that the first word in each line has a very negative connotation associated with it. The use of the words “Wrong”, “Negative”, “Infecting”, create a negative tone for the entire set of lines. This will allow the listener to greater understand the importance of tackling the issues within the US before getting involved with the global issues abroad.

Open to New Things🚪

For me, the most interesting aspect of the novel “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid is how Hamid utilizes “doors” in his story. Nadia and Saeed travel many times throughout the book and each time there is always the mention of the doors they had to go through in order to reach their destination. These doors are written almost as if they were supernatural or magical. However, after reading about these “doors” time and time again, I began to believe that they were a form of symbolism for something else (methods of escape). After a lot of planning with their agent, Saeed and Nadia finally decided to leave their home country behind. When they arrived at the seemingly abandoned dentist’s clinic, they are forced to wait in a crowd of other people trying to flee the country as well. When they are finally summoned to the dentist’s office to go through the door, they seem to be reluctant and have many worries about actually stepping through. As Saeed and Nadia approach the door, “She (Nadia) was struck by its darkness, its opacity, the way that it did not reveal what was on the other side, and also did not reflect what was on this side, and so felt equally like a beginning and an end…she took his(Saeed’s) hands in hers and held them tight, and then, releasing them, and without a word, she stepped through”(103-104). Based on the way this quotation is written, I am still a little unsure as to whether or not Hamid intended the doors to actually be supernatural in nature, or just symbolism for means of escape. The way Hamid presents them, the travel from one place to the next seems almost instantaneous (though he could just be leaving out the journey). However, I believe that Hamid’s intention was to provide good insight into what people fleeing their home country must feel like. This quotation demonstrates how when escaping a country, there is a lot of uncertainty as to where the end of the journey will be. There seems to be a lot of risk involved as well, as it could mean the beginning of a new life, or the end of a current one. The doors in “Exit West” can be interpreted in many ways but in my opinion, they add new layers to the story that makes it a lot more interesting.

Losing Hope

In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the reader follows Meursault on his journey through a multitude of different situations and relationships. But, what I find the most interesting about this story is how Meursault responds to these situations. He is very analytical in nature, and seems almost emotionless. This ultimately results in Meursault getting himself into a lot of trouble and even leads to him being sentenced to execution. Throughout the story he tries to make some sense out of his odd behavioral habits and by the end, is able to connect his own personality to the meaning of life.

For me, the most striking line that embodies this realization is on page 122 when Meursualt is waiting to be executed. Meursault states, “As if a blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself–so like a brother, really–I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again”(122,123). I believe that this is one of the most important quotations in The Stranger and that it provides a realization that does a very good job of bringing the story to a close. Prior to this, but after his sentence, Meursault was contemplating ways to evade his execution. He quickly became consumed and very stressed. But, he eventually loses all hope and it is only then that he is able to be happy and at peace. He realizes that the indifference he shows to the world is mutual and reflects right back at him. With this, he no longer felt “alone” and no longer feared his certain death. Death comes eventually anyway, why stress about when it will come.

Fascinating or Creepy

The story “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson Spires, is a story about two boys that were assigned to complete a writing assignment. Eldwin has to write a story about an interesting moment from Brian’s life. As we follow Eldwin through the many revisions and edits to his writing, Brian shows the reader his interesting point of view on storytelling.

There seems to be a recurring motif in the story of a white woman creepily watching and observing people of color. There is the white woman who takes notes while they are writing, there is stalker Kim, and there is the lady that went to college with Brian’s mom. I believe this was done intentionally. Throughout the short story, Brian seems to get mad at Eldwin when he writes about his life, because he believes that the way Eldwin is writing, is almost as if he is “fetishizing” people of color in order to make the story more “interesting” for the reader. This idea of white people “fetishizing” stories of people of color is present in many stories today and can actually come off as creepy or distancing. This is also demonstrated when Brian tells Eldwin about his mom’s roommate in college. Brian says “So she could catch her in her ‘natural state.’ The girl was sending the pictures home to her family, like, look at this elephant I saw at the watering hole or this native with a disc in her lip”(179). In these instances, this extreme fascination makes the person being observed feel uncomfortable and “exotic”. This is demonstrated again when Brian says  that “ both men felt like unicorns in their grad program” and that “ he was more self-conscious about his black maleness than his disability”(177). I find this interesting because I have never noticed this before. After reading this story I realized that many of the pieces of literature that I have read in the past fit this exact idea. I believe that we should strive to make stories interesting and appealing to the reader, without singling out races different from our own as “exotic”.

Stealing Hearts

For me, the most fascinating aspect of the short story “Escape from Spiderhead” is the idea of being able to control another person’s emotion with an administered drug, along with the consequenses of doing so. An individual’s emotions and how he/she expresses them is a defining quality that makes us unique and human. Love, is a very deep and personal feeling that is extremely hard to simply create out of thin air. However, in the story, Abnesti is able to minipulate love in his subjects with the simple flick of a switch. He claims, if proven to work, this advancement could change world for the better (end national disputes, stop soldiers from fighting, etc). But, a moral dilema is raised as a result. At what point do we start to lose our individuality/uniqueness?

If we were able to control other individuals’ emotions, we would all essentially become “robots”. Everybody would lose their authenticity and nobody would ever know when another peroson is being genuine. This would create a “distant” feeling between each person, and everyone would eventually lose their feelings of happiness. In “Escape from Spiderhead”, Jeff thinks to himself, “Why sad? Was I not a dude?… Still, honestly, I felt sadder than sad. I guess I was sad that love was not real? Or not all that real anyway? I guess I was sad that love could feel so real and the next minute be gone, and all because of something Abnesti was doing”(26). Even though Jeff was able to experience true love, he was not content with himself because as quickly as he was able to gain (the mutual) feelings, he had them taken away. The feeling of Love is desireble because it has to be earned, and when it is, it should be hard to lose. The instantaneous gain and loss of feelings for/of Jeff, made such a personal connection feel like a business transaction. Especially since it was a result of Abnesti’s decisions. Controlling emotions and feelings has always been sought after by humans, but reading this story has made me realize that, in doing so, we would lose our humanity and individuality.