Projects Vary, Repairers’ Intentions Do Not

In most small towns, there is a small, yet symbolic, piece of history that often gets overlooked and the majesty of it is confined to local historians and visitors of the town who decide to read the dusty plaque under it.  These pieces of history range from town to town, while grand pieces of history are central to some cities across the world. Cities tend to maintain paramount pieces of history because it encourages tourism, while small towns, such as Placerville, California, leave the maintenance of historic pieces to ambitious volunteers. Either approach aims to mask the impending trajectory of aging through covering any signs of weakness, but, as Elizabeth Spelman states in Repair, the very action of repair implies extinction:

Repairers deal with the used objects of the world, with those things bearing evidence of the trajectory towards destruction and termination. As repairers, they undertake to halt the march toward extinction, but their very existence reminds us that such extinction is inevitable” (136).

Here, Spelman states that although repairers bring about change and are welcomed in most circumstances, their existence is consistently representing fate.

Notable pieces of history, such as the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, are maintained at the highest level in order to ensure that it does not fade or deteriorate quickly. Its impending fate of deterioration will be met one day, similar to the lives lost inside the notorious structure. Its repair allows the history to be brought back to live through artwork, books and tours through the Colosseum which celebrate the uniqueness of the edifice, while condemning the reason for its notability. Grand pieces such as the Colosseum do not require a plaque to detail the history because it is such a staple in archaic structures that it is embarrassing to not understand the history behind it. Pieces like the Colosseum are expected to need repairs over time, and the city welcomes the face-lift because it can promote the piece even more. Even though repairs improve the structure, they imply weakness and a further step into nothingness. Grand pieces similar to the Colosseum are expected to be repaired and in top shape for presentation and to honor its history; on the other hand, small pieces of history in local towns are not as familiar with constant repairs.

California is home to the ‘49ers, aptly named after the rush to discover gold once it was discovered in the state in 1848. Towns sprung up all across the state, which were then abandon when the rush ended; Placerville, California was a gold mining town in California with a vast history involving gold and the “Hangman’s Tree”, a tree that was literally used to hang outlaws in the nineteenth century. Over time, the town committee tried to move on from the past and reinvent itself as a more robust town instead of a landmark from the nineteenth century. Board members tried to tear down a couple historic buildings located on the main street, but one man, a family member of mine, decided to devote his time to restoring these old buildings as accurately as possible. I saw first-hand is effort to restore these buildings with the help of local historians who marked each notable spot and attempted to replicate them. The restoration has faced many challenges, but will ultimately bring historic monuments back to life.

No matter the size of the job, repairers are only present when there is a flaw in a building, piece of clothing, artwork, etc. Both the Colosseum and the buildings in Placerville have deep-rooted history that should be maintained through the edifices. The former piece is very grand and a symbol of many repairs that keep the spirit alive and attract more people to go back in time and forget about the impending destruction; the latter piece is not as well known but also allows visitors to halt time and revisit old practices such as hanging outlaws and miners’ bars. Whether a volunteer is the repairer or a government official, both intend to halt the impending destruction in order to allow the memories and history live on a little longer.

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The Different Dances of Apologies

In order to establish an effective society, rules need to be set in place. Rules are necessary to promote social order; however, they tend to be broken and issues need to be fixed. The first step to repairing an issue is giving an apology – one of the first lessons learned by kids, although, the depth of an apology may not be understood for a period of time. Apologies are a difficult task that require courage and humbleness to be effective, but still require acceptance to complete. As noted in Repair by Elizabeth Spelman, an apology requires two people:

The repair that apology tries to carry out cannot be accomplished only by the apologizer. An apology  is an invitation to share in a ritual of repair, in a dance that takes more than one dancer” (85).

Spelman makes it clear that apologies, while likely heartfelt, do not completely resolve a conflict. Apologies may be accepted and all parties involved are able to move on, or the apology may not be accepted, resulting in various outcomes.

A simple apology at a young age will likely do the trick and allow all parties involved to move forward unharmed, especially when the children are taught to regurgitate the words, “I’m sorry” and “it’s ok”, which are taught by their parents. The apologizer understands that their actions were wrong and they affected another person, while the one receiving the apology accepts it and they continue as usual. While this type of apology may work at a young age, at some point it develops into a more heartfelt apology in which the apologizer accepts their actions and develops a series of words that may or may not be adequate and allow the party harmed to initiate acceptance and a plan for moving onward.  Apologies imply a desire for the hurt person to accept the expression of regret, then both parties work together in order to avoid such a situation in the future.

On the other hand, situations such as President Bill Clinton’s apology for slavery may veer from the ordinary apology. His apology was not directed at a small group of people, but rather generations of African-Americans that were enslaved at the hands of Americans, which refused to acknowledge the injustices as a whole until Clinton’s presidency. Some parties accepted the apology while others completely ignored it, which resulted in confusion as to how or if the issue would be repaired. As Spelman states, “…repair…takes more than one dancer” — solidifying the fact that Clinton’s apology was not accomplished as a whole. There have been improvements in race relations, and people are still working together to improve relations even further, but not everyone receiving the apology has accepted the invitation to the “dance.”

Overall, apologies are multi-step processes to repair issues; once an apology has been given, the effectiveness and acceptance of it are left to the receiver. In situations involving young kids, the process of an apology can be completed quickly as there are guidelines implanted in their minds by parents, teachers, etc. that enable the issues to be stated, and an apology to be given that recognizes the issues. The process by which kids move on is usually mediated by a teacher or parent that states how to avoid similar situations. On the contrary, apologies similar to the former president’s are much more sophisticated. The latter situation requires one person to take responsibility for a multitude of issues and effectively try to repair it through an apology and plan to move forward. Clinton was not able to apologize for simply breaking a rule, which makes it harder to recognize what the affected party wants to hear or act. In the end, Spelman’s outlook on apologies is very straightforward and acknowledges the parts of an apology that are approached differently for various situations.

The Value of Repairs

Many different approaches are taken when fixing an object or mending something that is broken; different professions specialize in various repairs on an expert level, although ordinary citizens attempt the same jobs in their home. Houses are not only edifices that support people, but rather they allow different atmospheres to be set in order to service a necessary function. Elizabeth Spelman’s Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World illustrates this well:

“The household functions — or is supposed to function — as a multipurpose repair site. It offers a pretty good microcosm of the variety of repair activities humans engage in, providing services on a nonprofessional basis that in many cases migrated outside the household to become…professional” (Spelman 34).

Spelman states that homes are a melting pot for various traits and/or skills that one may pursue in life as a profession, but can also be applied to everyday life on a local level. Even though the text focuses on various types of repair or restoration, it also supports a discussion about repair outside of a workshop or tailor.

Every generation learns new subjects to add onto the various knowledge already obtained from previous generations and every person has a piece of information that is specific to their mind, which can be passed on to help other people in specific situations. In a household, over the years, people obtain or improve their knowledge which can then be shared with everyone in order to make the household a quasi society. There are various places in a house that are mostly used for one purpose such as reading, ironing, washing, etc. These places are models of businesses such as a tailor, library or restaurant. Most repair jobs can be easily done at home with only a small amount of information on the subject, but other issues require a vast amount of knowledge that is not available in certain households.

Some activities that are performed at home can be improved and then used for an income at a professional level. When a job is too big for a resident of a house, they are able to take it to a store that is home to professionals that deal with a certain issue. The resident is able to rest assured that their time can be spent wisely on other activities whilst their job is taken care of properly. Professionals are willing to use their knowledge to fix or repair an object that is not sentimental to them, but provides an income. Over time, professionals expand their knowledge and earn better reputations for their work. They are able to offer more time on the project and their expertise, which in turn helps their business. On occasion, people will fix or repair objects “on the side” either for supplemental income or fun. These jobs help the person improve their skills and provide more income that can be used at their discretion.

Families start out with two people that have generations of knowledge behind them that can hopefully be applied to situations in the house; over time, this knowledge is passed down to kids who expand their knowledge while growing up and bring it home to either apply it or store in their mind for future reference — everyone in a house that is able to speak is able to bring something to the table. Although repairs at home may not be at an expert level, they still hold sentimental value and a feeling of achievement that cannot be experienced when passing a job off to a professional. Monetary and sentimental value play big roles when deciding how to approach repairing or restoring an object. The former value may be very restrictive when determining what to do with an object, while the latter value is more lenient. Money can be allocated for certain projects but that relies on the sentimental value i.e. how much a person is willing to spend on an object to be repaired. Sentimental value is not awarded and therefore is hard to give up when there is insufficient funds for a repair. There are many different factors in determining whether an object can/ should be replaced in a house or whether a professional should handle the job. Overall, jobs may be completed at home on a nonprofessional level in order to save money or hold sentimental value, but the result may not be equal to someone who spends their time and earns their living by doing similar activities.