American Privilege

In his song “American Privilege,” Allen Stone challenges Americans way of life and the privilege we have simply by being American. The song specifically targets white Americans and their mounting privilege– whether it is realized or unrealized. Stone has a particular fixation throughout the song on consumerism, and how Americans waste and expend their money with little thought.

Oh, it doesn’t seem right
That I – I was born white
And my parents don’t fight
Told me they love me each night

Stone begins his song by discussing his innate privilege as a white American. He describes that he had happy, married parents who were supportive of him. For many Americans, this is a reality for them because they were born with these privileges. Stone goes on to give more examples of American privilege.

I don’t lose sleep for kids sewing my sheets
Or the ones stitching my sneaks
As long as I can buy ’em both cheap

Stone then goes on to expand on his idea of American privilege by criticizing many Americans ideal of consumerism. He attacks Americans for not caring how their materials were made, who made them, or the conditions they were made in as long as they don’t have to pay a lot of money to get them. In both of these stanzas, Stone is taking things that many Americans take for granted and making them think about what those things truly mean about them and their privilege. His articulation of how easy his (and other Americans) life is compared to others provides an introspective opinion that would make many Americans think twice about their privilege.

American privilege is blurring my vision
Inherited sickness

Although short, I think the chorus of this song is incredibly powerful. Stone is saying that although many Americans enjoy their lives and the privilege that comes with it, he believes the privilege Americans have to be a sickness. In a haze of his privilege, Stone is struggling to make the right decisions in light of his privilege. I think this is true for many Americans. They are blurred by privilege they often don’t know they have, so they inherit a disease most Americans have.

Overall, I believe this song to be poetry. I think Stone eloquently puts into perspective American privilege in a way that is presentable and not overbearing to Americans. By constantly using “I,” Stone does not place the blame on us as listeners, making us more willing to listen to what it has to the important, reflective, and necessary messages it has. .

Is "Beloved" a Ghost Story?

In reading “Beloved,” a question arose in my mind. Is “Beloved” a ghost story? Clearly, there is a ghost or spirit of some sort in the form of Beloved. While Beloved is a spirit, what was Morrison’s motive to include a ghost in a story about post-slavery America? While one of Beloved’s main purposes is to haunt Sethe, what more does she represent?

There are a lot of questions there. But in my opinion, “Beloved” is not a ghost story. Personally, I think to call it so is simplifying Beloved as a character. To call “Beloved” a ghost story is to overlook many important events in the novel. As readers, we see many different time periods and events throughout African-American history throughout the book. We see a newly post-slavery United States through the “present” eyes of Sethe and Paul D. We also get to see flashbacks of Sethe’s and Paul D’s back to Sweet Home and slavery. We even get flashbacks to Sethe’s childhood and her mother, who spoke a different language, where Sethe would have been around people who could’ve remembered the middle passage. Morrison uses Beloved to fill some of the gaps missing in this history. As readers, we get vivid, horrible, brutal images of the middle passage through Beloved’s description. This is a part of the history that would not have been included in the story otherwise, but is very important in understanding the history of slavery in America. Beloved is also the one who asks Sethe so many questions about Sweet Home, providing the reader with more information about Sethe’s experience as a slave. Although Morrison could have found other ways to delve into Sethe’s past, Beloved is a natural and interesting tool that Morrison can use in order for us as readers to learn more about Sweet Home.

In this way, I think Beloved as a character serves a much larger purpose than just to be a ghost in the story and haunt Sethe. For this reason, to call “Beloved” a ghost story is a bit of an insult to the book because it holds so much more than that.

The Effect of The Narrative of “Exit West”

In “Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid tells a riveting story about two main characters, Saeed and Nadia, in a war torn city. While much of the novel focuses on Saeed and Nadia’s travels away from their home city, I think that the first part of the novel in the city is just as important as the immigration in the second part of the novel.

The first part of the novel focuses on the war torn city that Saeed and Nadia are living in and their day to day lives inside the city. It recounts Saeed and Nadia going about their lives normally: going to work everyday, going grocery shopping, and even partaking in some drugs. Basically until the last few weeks before they leave through a door, Saeed and Nadia go throughout their lives with very little change despite the war.

I think this narrative from inside a war torn city is important for Westerners to read and understand. So often we watch the news or read the newspaper, where all that is focused on in areas experiencing conflict is physical destruction and political turmoil. The news also focuses on people fleeing war torn cities. This novel takes away the element of hard journeys of migration by implementing the idea of doors, allowing the reader to focus on the narrative of Saeed and Nadia. And as Western readers, I think it is important for us to understand that what we hear in the news isn’t the whole perspective. “Exit West” is an excellent narrative to understand a little bit more of the narrative of people in war torn areas.

“Groundhog Day” as an Existentialist Film

The movie “Groundhog Day” is about a man, Phil Connors, who has a bad outlook on life. But by some fluke of nature, Phil ends up repeating the same Groundhog Day over and over. At first, Phil is confused, and keeps repeating his actions every day so that they are the same, in case the next day is not a repeat of the last. But then, Phil begins to realize that he can act however he wants and there will be no consequences because there will be “no tomorrow.” He begins to break many social and societal constructs, basically doing whatever he wants because he knows there will be no repercussions. He ends up becoming happier and having a better outlook on life once he begins doing this. He has a new level of freedom that he did not have before.

Image result for groundhog day

One particularly interesting thing about “Groundhog Day” is that it portrays a positive view of existentialism. I think it’s easy for many people to say existentialists are simply pessimistic and refuse to see any good in life. “Groundhog Day” refutes all these statements. Phil begins the movie tied to societal constructs meant to give life meaning. After repeating the same day over and over again, Phil is set free from these constructs. He no longer fears society’s judgement of his actions. And only when he gets this freedom is he truly happy in the movie. Although existentialism is, on one level, about trying to shy away from things we traditionally think gives value to our lives, it’s also about the freedom we can acquire from living without these social constructs.

One other connection that I think must be made here is the connection of “Groundhog Day” and Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Much like Sisyphus, Phil must repeat the same day, pushing his “boulder” up the hill, just for the day to repeat or the boulder to fall back down the hill. But Phil begins to recognize the absurdity of life as he repeats his days, just as Camus says Sisyphus must accept the absurdity of life as he pushes his boulder. Camus says that once you realize how absurd life is, you can find amusement and even happiness in its absurdity. This is why he proposes that Sisyphus is happy, and this is why Camus would also consider Phil to be happy as well.

The Relationship Between the Tlics and Terrans in “Bloodchild”

The Tlics and Terrans have an interesting and complex relationship in “Bloodchild.” One side of their relationship is based on power. The Tlics have control over the Terrans in the story. The Terrans can’t leave The Preserve and are also forced to bear the Tlic’s “children” (the shrubs) even though it can kill them. Even with supposedly “good” things, like the eggs, the Tlics control how much the Terrans get. Everything is monitored by the Tlics, so that the power dynamic seems clear: Tlics have power over Terrans.

At the same time, the Tlics seem to be making an effort to make the Terrans comfortable. It would be easy for the Tlics to force the Terrans into hostile conditions simply to bear their young. Instead, they provide the Terrans with things like eggs that make the Preserve more enjoyable for them. They also acclimate Tlic and Terran so that they are comfortable with each other. The Tlic even go as far as trying to make the Terran physically comfortable, by encasing them in their limbs.

These two sides of the Tlic and Terran relationship are extremely conflicting. I think it’s interesting to observe which characters believe each side of this relationship. For many it’s unclear. Does the mother refuse eggs because she believes the Tlics are cruel? Does Gan agree to bear the Tlic’s children because he feels a strong emotional relationship with her? A relationship the Tlic want him to feel? The overarching question for all of this is why the Tlics make so much effort to have connections with the Terrans, when it does not seem necessary? How much are the Tlic innately similar to the Terran and how much of how the Tlic act is a direct result of being in constant relations with the Terran?