Creators & Repairers

Think of a famous inventor. Easy, right? Let’s see there’s: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney; the list goes go on and on. Now, think a famous repairman or conservator. Not a single one comes to mind, am I right? But, why is that?

Elizabeth Spelman says

In any event, repair is necessary because – theological views aside – we are manifestly imperfect creatures in an imperfect world (136).

Creation and repair are both imperative and important but yet, one gets a little more of that limelight. As humans, we are constantly adapting to new environments, advancing in the sciences, and changing to satisfy our wants. Therefore, new things are created but old things must also be mended to last a little bit longer.

At a young age, you learn about who invented the telephone in history class or who created the number system in math class and as you grow older, more developers and designers are introduced. Do you ever hear about those who restore our beloved monuments or conserve our national parks? As humans, we don’t like the fact that we have flaws; we like to be perceived as being under control and strong enough to take care of ourselves. We cannot repair without knowing what needs repairing; we must evaluate and see where something went wrong.

When we finally determine what needs fixing, we have to decide if fixing is required or if keeping it in its state of brokenness is more appropriate. Spelman says,

But sometimes no kind of repair is appropriate precisely because the successful repair of any kind would destroy the object in question (132).

To repair, you must destroy. Some would rather keep the object shattered than destroy it again, in order for it, to be fixed once more. In a sense, repairers are destroyers and creators are creators. The definition of the word destroy is to cause (something) to end or no longer exist, to cause the destruction of (something), or to damage (something) so badly it cannot be repaired [merriam-webster.com]. Creating and destroying are opposites; creating has a positive connotation while destroying does not. Repairers don’t receive as much publicity because they cannot repair without destroying and people think of this negatively; creators are contributing to life and bringing something new to the table.

You learn about inventors but not repairers so I’m here to tell you about some. Does the name Lee Iacocca ring a bell? Doubtful, I know. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation. With the Statue’s centennial in 1986, this was created to raise funds for renovation and preservation. Without the team of French and Americans who mended holes, removed layers of paint, and replaced rusting iron bars, the Statue wouldn’t look as timeless as it does today. (https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/places_restoring.htm). The Statue of Liberty is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy that mean so much to so many people. Thanks to the work of the countless architects, engineers, and conservators, it can continue to give hope to others.

Walking down D.C.’s streets on a cool April day, I look up to see scaffolding surrounding the United State Capitol Dome. With this being my first time in the nation’s capital, I was surprised to see a less than perfect building. It didn’t look like the google images that come up when you hit enter or the almost-too-beautiful images you see in movies. Spelman says,

There are people or beings or processes by which or through which things are created, come into existence. Those things are bound to decay or break or disintegrate (127).

Over time, it is impossible for anything to stay in the same state as that when it was first created. The Dome is no exception. Have you ever heard of Stephen T. Ayers? He is the Architect of the Capitol who was approved for a multi-year repair project to restore the Dome to its original glory. Due to the hard work of the many employees assigned to this job, this symbol of American democracy and one of the world’s most famous architectural icons can be rid of the damages due to time and weather. (https://www.aoc.gov/dome/project-overview)

Inventors are important but so are repairers. As humans, it is hard to talk about and ultimately accept that we are imperfect beings. We must shed light on those who keep what’s important to us in tip-top shape, whether that is physically or emotionally and tangible or not. Repair cannot be done with destroying and that can be scary to think about.

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Short vs. Long Term Solutions

In Chapter 4 of Elizabeth Spelman’s Repair, Spelman compares and contrasts restorative and retributive justice systems. She quotes David Lerman who says,

Restorative Justice asks: who has been harmed; how they have been harmed; and how the offender, community, and criminal justice system can help repair the harm (51). 

I believe enforcing a restorative justice system is a long term solution while a retributive justice system only temporarily solves problems. In the criminal justice system, we are “identifying the people who commit crimes and then punishing them for breaking the law” (53).

What is being achieved by removing someone from their community? No repair is being done here. Being incarcerated doesn’t mend the offender, the victim, or their community. Instead of teaching the offender how to correctly behave, instead of ensuring the victim feels safe again, and instead of making sure the community can function as it once did, the retributive justice system so calls solves the problem by simply taking the offender out of the picture. How likely is someone to get arrested again for the same crime? Imagine, a person robs a bank, serves her time in jail, and then robs a bank again. This is not surprising to happen in a retributive system because the only repair done is to the distribution of power and authority, which was questioned by the breaking of a law, not to the person herself. Spelman says,

Through the punishment he must endure, the offender pays for the damage he has done to the victims and to the social fabric of which laws are such an important part (53).

Only temporary relief is felt with punishing and removing the bad, but what will the future look like? He pays for the damage done to the victims and social fabric, but does he repair it? How can you expect change when the right way to act isn’t being taught?

Restorative justice systems do the right kind of repair in the right places. Instead of just shipping the problem out, it gets to the root of the problem and fixes it from there. Instead of just restoring the power and authority to its rightful owners, the wrongdoers are being repaired. Spelman says,

Victim, offender, and community work together to develop an understanding of what work by the offender would constitute repair of the damages he has caused (59).

Breaking the law doesn’t just affect the offender but yet everyone around him. So to repair the situation, it is not one man’s job but rather a community effort. This is why I believe this is a long term solution. Most importantly, teaching an offender what he did that was wrong, why it is wrong, and how to not make the same mistake again will lessen the amount of crimes committed. This is how change is made. A restorative system is also better for everyone else. Victims are respected and helped as much as an offender in a retributive system. Communities are able to recover from a tragedy and aren’t left to do so on their own. People are less likely to commit the same crimes. Compared to a retributive system, the focus is on everyone, not just the law breaker. The problem can’t be truly solved by just dealing with the criminal. Repairing must be done to everyone involved.

Single-Parent Households

Amelia Abobo

English 110

r1

11 September 2016

 

In a perfect household, the mother repairs people and their relationships while the father repairs physical objects with his handy tools. How common are these “perfect” households? A “perfect” home is one where the mother is domestically feminine and the father is domestically masculine; they are equally important but have different responsibilities. Don’t the majority of marriages end in divorce? How “efficient” are single parent homes at being repair shops? A mother now not only has to mend her daughter’s broken friendship but also fix the wobbly dining table. In addition to repairing relationships and physical objects, she has to provide for her children which is seen as yet another man’s job. Are two-parent households better repair shops than single-parent ones? What is the effect of this imbalance? If a mother now has to take on the role of the father, does this take away from her femininity and make her more masculine? Does the dynamic that Spelman illustrates still apply to single parents? Is a women less of a good mother without a partner? When speaking of the responsibilities of each household, Spelman says “ At the same time, children may also be called upon to mend rifts in family relationships that adults can’t accomplish themselves” (34). If the parents’ divorce or relationship did not end well, is it the child’s responsibility to fix it? If a child’s parents are fighting, must he or she intervene? Is it the parent’s responsibility to find a partner so that this “perfect” household can be enforced?

I come from a single parent home and my mother took on both the male and female responsibilities in a household. Growing up with two brothers, I did notice that they became domestically masculine by helping with male repairing. I do not believe it is fair to assess a single parent household in the way Spelman’s spells out to do that of a two-parent household. It would put an emphasis on what is missing or how things should be executed instead of shedding light on how it’s success shouldn’t be questioned. When Spelman speaks about the household as a repair shop, she says “ Obviously, the household is not the only place where such lessons are passed on or such questions brought up. But whether households are good at it or lousy at it, they are places where people are supposed to get prepared for lives as citizens, consumers, workers, moral agents, friends” (40). A household with a mother and a father isn’t always good and a household with just a father isn’t always lousy. It isn’t about who is in the household that makes it an efficient repair shop, but rather what those influential beings do in it. A home as an efficient repair shop does not always need a mother or a father: it can have only one mother or only one father, two mothers, or two fathers.