Can we be eternally mended?

 

Throughout chapter 3 of her book Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World, Elizabeth Spelman examines the differences between males and females in regards to repairing, as well as discussing the enablement of the human mind and body to repair itself. The latter of those two ideas, in my opinion, is the most delicate topic so far throughout her book and the one that I can connect to the most.

Let’s face it. We as American’s simply cannot be blind to the fact that although woman and men are finally considered “equal”, this is not the case. Politically, yes woman and men can do all the same things such as vote, own a job, etc. However, if we dissect this further, not everything is true and settled. Men working the same exact job as a woman are still getting paid more than them, and gender bias’s in the workplace are still alive and well. It is 2016. Why is this still the case. Is it because bosses feel a more masculine worker would be better suited for a position rather than a female? No matter the bias, it has no place in today’s equal society where you grow up with the American Dream that you can do anything you put your mind too.

Using Spelman’s example, Willie the Mechanic, and Louise/Irene and Elisabeth the art restorers, it shows the distinction of jobs still existing today. Who says that Willie couldn’t be the art restorer, or that the three woman could not open up their own mechanic shop? But then again, would a lot of males trust a women repairing his car or would they trust a masculine man? Reiterating on the point that the general bias of jobs in our society still exists and it should change, but will it ever? From the words of the author herself,

Should we expect there to be a division of the labor of repair, just as we find such division historically in almost every other human labor-are some groups or ‘types’ of people assigned certain kinds of tasks, other such groups assigned others?

Like all living things in this world, the human body must be fed, watered, as well as cared for in order to stay healthy and alive. But this applies mainly to the overall health of the body itself, not the mind and spirit. Spelman chooses the phrase “eternal mending” to describe the repair of the mind and spirit. She begins to give examples of events that require “eternal mending”, such as the death of a grandmother or the death of a goldfish. I find this specific topic very relatable to the fact that I have lost some people in my life and she describes the process with such precision that I can really connect with what he is saying.

Growing up in a small tight-knit community, everybody knew everybody and rumors spread like a California wildfire. When I first caught wind of my friend Bobby Taggart having cancer, I thought it couldn’t be true. An awesome, kind hearted kid whose passion for baseball like mine, was exponential. Living only a few minutes from my house but in the neighboring little league, we played each other our entire childhood. We finally got the chance to play with each other in middle school in travel ball and with the help of his flawless right arm, he pitched our team to our first championship. Being the fighter that he was, he went through remission four times before sadly losing his battle with cancer last November. The news of his passing really hit not just me hard, but the community as a whole. Adapting the ‘Team Taggart’ motto, his foundation grew and grew, to the point where Villanova’s Jay Wright and Final Four MVP Ryan Arcidiacono had hopped on board. His positive attitude rubbed off on everyone he came in contact with and he still is missed every single day.

Bobby’s death was one of the first moments in my life where I looked myself in the mirror and just felt sort of empty and in the needed of a repair. How could an awful disease take away such a joyous and full-of-life kid? I was one of many who needed to be eternally mended, not knowing how to overcome the pain I felt inside. I think Spelman perfectly crafts her words by saying,

And then there is the repair necessitated by the steady flow of crises arising from the vulnerability of the human heart and from the fragility of the web of human relationships.

Those human relationships that she talks about really are so powerful but can be so utterly fragile. The steady flow of crises that she talks about are happening all throughout our life and can be very sudden, meaning our minds need to sometimes repair “on the fly”. But sometimes, these repairs take a lot more time than we think. And sometimes, we never truly can repair from some events that take place in our lives.

Our species is truly the most diverse in all of the world because we have the ability to form relationships and interact in ways that nothing else can. When these relationships are sometimes suddenly cut off, we can feel a sort of loneliness or like were floating down to the bottom of a never ending abyss. It’s at that point that we ask ourselves, can we be repaired?

When I first got this book, I was unsure what it was about and what I would be getting into. The title, at first, was quite vague and I was unsure of the meaning of it. But after working with the text for two weeks, it hit me. The world itself really is fragile, both physically and mentally. Physically, we have polar ice caps melting from global warming, rainforests being chopped down in favor of new landscape and property, as well oceans being littered with trash. But mentally, that is where we find the most fragility. In this day and age, we see it all over the news as if it’s almost an uncommon event: shootings and terrorist attacks. These attacks on our lives, community, and country always leave us wondering, how can we repair as a nation and come back stronger? We find the courage and strength from within and with each other to repair together and return to a stronger, more solidified group. The impulse to restore all of this is there for many of us, but what can one individual do to repair such monstrosities?

Spelman’s analogy between humans and cars was one that really caught my eye. She talks about how like cars, “human beings suffer wear and tear”. I completely agree with that because we go through rough patches in our life suffering injuries, breaking friendships or relationships, as well as other difficulties. At some points, we just feel completely broken. But like the car when its worn down, we can be repaired. And once repaired, there is no true limit on what we can do next.

Furthermore, Spelman examines how that “Repairing a hip so that someone can walk again might under some conditions get in the way of repairing it so the person can run”. I particularly like this line because with some repairs, it may repair one asset of what was broken, but cannot totally restore the broken object back to its normal functionality. That, in many cases, can be one of the fears once being or feeling broken. That whatever was broken will not be totally restored back to normal. But that is the consequence that must be faced. In life, many things will be broken both physically and mentally. And the way we choose to repair could greatly affect us for the rest of our life. That is why we must take it upon ourselves to take the process head on and not look back on what was before, but to move on to a better, more repaired future.

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Playing God (R3)

Renowned author Jodi Picoult asks, “Why are we the only first world country that still has capital punishment? Is it because we’re too afraid to really examine the system?” America’s ongoing debate over the legality of the death penalty divides so many people that it may as well be called a civil war. While justice systems battle over the merits of restorative versus retributive sentences, Spelman’s Repair never mentions perhaps the most extreme version of each: a life in prison versus the loss of one’s life by lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad, or hanging. Spelman’s definition of repair in the courts constitutes repairing the wrong done between perpetrator and victim(s), yet capital punishment tears at the very fabric of ‘mending’ even as some advocate for it as the ideal solution or the ultimate justice that can be offered to a victim’s grieving family.

The death penalty is a blight on American society because it denounces mercy. Its mere presence as a sentencing option challenges the rights of the accused; the trial itself presents the accused as irredeemable, inexcusable. The damage the perpetrator has done—either aggravated murder, treason, or the combination of a felony and murder—is irreparable, but capital punishment declares that he or she is, too. Spelman lists myriad repairing words and juxtaposes them with words of disrepair:

Use: renewal, redemption, reconciliation, salvation, compensation, consolation…in their stead…break, rupture, unredeemed, unmendable, untreatable, unsalvageable, irreconcilable… (p. 27)

Thus, if justice is supposed to be a source of redemption, how can the murder of a murderer, “an eye for an eye,” be anything but irredeemable and in complete antithesis to Spelman’s sanctified salvation? State governments argue for the families’ sense of retribution, explaining that the death of a loved one makes them eager for revenge. Revenge is easily understood to be a feeling that opposes reconciliation, and the sour taste it leaves in one’s mouth when the deed is done is no real compensation for such tragedy. Spelman writes that retribution was once “resorted to with regret” (p. 60), so where did American sentiment go awry?

Over 1000 people have been executed in the United States since 1976, and over 3000 inmates currently reside on death row (statisticbrain.com). The African concept of ubuntu “focuses on the interconnectedness of people that makes harm to any harm to all” (p. 67) and is the backbone of the restorative justice system; but the death penalty ignores this humanistic concept in its reliance on Hammurabi’s ancient code.

Not only does capital punishment rupture ties within a society, but it shatters relationships between people, and it really does echo the Civil War with proceedings clearly biased by individual and institutional racism. Black men are disproportionately more likely to be sentenced to death: “a person convicted of the same crime is more than three times more likely to be sentenced to die simply because the crime was committed in a predominantly white…area” (The Impact of Legally Inappropriate Factors on Death Sentencing for California Homicides, 1990-1999, Pierce and Radelet). States with long histories of extensive racial segregation, especially those in the south such as Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama, are some of the only states that remain vehemently insistent on maintaining the death penalty. The legal method of hanging is reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. Spelman mentions the failure of consistency, and thus of justice, in a legal system where “assaults on white victims are prosecuted much more ferociously than those on Blacks” (p. 69). While less than 30 percent of homicide victims are White, over 80 percent of executions have been performed on those convicted of killing Whites (Pierce and Radelet).

This persistent racial disparity should not be remedied by increasing the use of the death penalty for White perpetrators who also “deserve” them.  In a humane society, no one deserves them. Although some offenders’ crimes are severe and injurious to both individuals and the social fabric, a humanitarian version of retribution would ideally have the perpetrator suffer in prison, not literally lose his or her life, which some may consider a release from blame. Similarly, restoration happens when the families of victims are supported and provided assistance that enables them to forgive, mending their own frayed souls, or at least when they can seek comfort—and thus ease some pain—knowing the perpetrator has lost the privileges of a free life.

Repair, therefore, is more prevalent and effective when capital punishment is absent as an option. Millions of dollars have been saved in states and countries where a life sentence is given in lieu of death. In America, “The War on Crime” could focus its efforts on rehab services and mediation rather than violence that ultimately makes more violence, because no state where the death penalty is legal actually has less murder than those where it has been abolished. So let us restore a broken justice system by abolishing capital punishment, thus strengthening Spelman’s “fragile world.”

The Depths of an Apology

“I’m sorry” is a phrase so commonly used that it starts to become second nature to many, but is one actually sorry? Elizabeth Spelman goes into the depths about how an apology is not an apology unless sincere sorrow is exhibited. She writes, “In order to apologize-really apologize, and not just utter some words-for something one has done or failed to do, one has not only to acknowledge responsibility for but express sincere sorrow and regret over this action or inaction” (Spelman 82). I feel it is provoking that she chose to explain this because an apology to many is something we learn from childhood. We are taught as kids to respect one another and, when we messed up, to say “I’m sorry” for it. But when is “I’m sorry” not enough? When does it mean anything at all? That is the basis at which Spelman is trying to point out to so many who think a simple apology can mend all scares.

An apology is something I say and hear every day. Whether it is walking to class or in class you are bound to hear someone say “sorry”. For me, it is when I am walking to class and accidently bump into someone. In that scenario a simple “sorry” is acceptable but there are plenty of situations where a “sorry” does not quite cut it. Spelman touches upon a situation like this when discussing the Tuskegee Study. Clinton apologized on behalf of the U.S and said, “What the United States did was shameful, and I am sorry” (Spelman 88). Clinton’s apology becomes meaningful when adding in the fact that he owns up to what the U.S. did. He admits that what went on was “shameful”. It the difference between a simple apology and one that actually means something. Spelman adds, “…it must be clear that he regrets what he has done and feels sorrow over what he has wrought” (Spelman 83). Admitting to the mistake is essential in a meaningful apology, yet, so many people overlook it. If Clinton were to have just gone on about how sorry the U.S. felt for what took place and never admitted to messing up, the apology would have been no different than him simply saying “I’m sorry”. By accepting the mistakes made it ensures those affected that their scares are trying to be mended. That what they went through is not viewed as nothing. That their injuries are being thought of and cared about.

Through adolescence we have been taught, for the most part, that an “I’m sorry” is the key to fixing anything broken. Break your best friends favorite pencil? Say “sorry” and move on with it. Lose your friends video game? Nothing a “sorry” can’t fix. Sometimes people even try to mend more serious mistakes with “I’m so sorry” thinking an emphasis on the apology is going to make a difference. Crash your parent’s car? That requires an “I’m so sorry!” for sure. Spelman explains though that two words, maybe three, are never enough for a genuine apology. A genuine apology consists of owning up to the mistakes made and showing respectful condolences for them.

When we are kids our parents would always make us confess to what we did wrong and apologize for it. I know I always heard my mother say, “a sorry is not enough”. I would get so accustomed to apologizing then quickly running off that the words that were coming out of my mouth were becoming meaningless. This idea follows up Spelman’s point of appropriate apologies because most situations where we say “sorry”, a “sorry” really is not enough. Saying that one simple word does no repair for those affected by the mistake. Without verifying that you are clear on what you did and you know how it affected someone, the apology might as well not be said.

Owning up to a mistake seems to be difficult to so many people. People seem to have difficulty acknowledging failure or messing up. For some, an apology means loss of pride. For others, an apology is embarrassing. Who wants to admit that they messed up? Who wants to put themselves below someone else voluntarily? It seems to be no one these days. Nobody wants to say they messed up because failure is viewed as a sign of weakness. If you apologize then you now failed. It is the ability to acknowledge failure and prevail from it that creates a meaningful apology.

Spelman has discussed different gender roles and discrimination throughout the text. She touched upon how, in employment, it is more commonly seen that men, like Willie and Fred, are the ones doing the dirty, physical work, whereas women, such as Louise, Irene, and Elizabeth are the ones doing feminine work. Relating to gender differences, I find it them men, more than women, have difficulties admitting to mistakes. Men tend to display a brave and tough persona. An apology is seen as a sign of weakness and men cannot be seen as weak. For males, confessing that they messed up is like giving up a piece of manhood. There is almost an image that a male is so mighty that no mistake should ever be made. When apologizing, you are voluntarily giving someone else superiority over yourself. You were the one who messed up and now must take the repercussions for it. It is common to see that men wish to feel superior. Willie and Fred like to take control of their work and make it their own in some way. So by apologizing it now means that that man is no longer superior. Do you think Willie would apologize for making a motorcycle too strong? Do you think Fred would apologize if a customer did not think his work was up to par? In my eyes, I would guess no. These men take pride in their work and to admit to a mistake made would be detrimental to them.

Compared to Willie and Fred, Louise, Irene, and Elizabeth would have a different approach the issue. If someone were to say to the trio that the color of the paint they used was incorrect, I feel as though they would apologize thoroughly without a second thought. Females seem to be more emotionally connected and therefore much more willing to properly apologize. To them, there is no shield they must hold up to defend themselves. There is no masculinity at stake. An apology is not a difficult task when you understand what wrong was done and confront the issue. Women seem to be more willing to accept failure and learn from it. Men have this idea that in order to protect their masculinity and manhood that no apology could ever easily be given. Due to a woman’s inner emotional connections drawn out by gender roles it becomes more natural to acknowledge mistakes and take credit where credit is due.

We see differences in genders throughout Spelman’s Repair and though she does not directly discuss the differences in terms of apologizes she creates an image for both men and women to work off of. The males are seen as tough, brave, and more physically connected to both people and object. On the other hand, the females are seen as feminine, delicate, and emotionally connected. It is the differences in genders that conflict with the ability to appropriately apologize. Females tend to more easily admit to mistakes made and take responsibility for them. Males tend to put up a fight and resist the need to admit to messing up.  

Whether a male or female, we homo repareans tend to fail to meet the standards of a proper apology. It is adolescence that has accustomed us to two words that fix all problems, “I’m sorry”. Spelman explains though how two words can never be enough to mend the serious scares some receive. In order to show sincere sorrow to those who are hurt one must display genuine condolences and acknowledge failures made.

Girls Can Do Anything? – R3

Gender roles – a set of societal norms dictating the types of behaviors which are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality. That is the clear cut definition of gender roles. In Chapter 3 of Elizabeth Spelman’s Repair, she addresses the use of gender roles in day to day life and the work force. In fact in several aspects of her book, Spelman confronts the topic of gender roles presenting different characters and their line of repair/restoring. Understanding these specified roles through the ways Spelman identifies them, is an important aspect of understanding Repair.

Gender roles have existed since the beginning of time. The women, should not, and therefore would not take on the same tasks as men, because well— they weren’t men. If the men’s job was to hunt and gather, it was the woman’s job to cook and create with the supplies she was given. A woman’s role was to create with what the men provided. Chapter 2 of Repair tends to demonstrate that theory pretty clearly, when looking at the role of Louise, Elizabeth, and Irene. The three of them do what is called invisible mending, which is when they take a painting with minimal damage and make small repairs, that are invisible to the naked eye. Louise, Elizabeth, and Irene, essentially take the work of others and make them look as though they never needed touching up. Women making do with the work and creativity of men. Although the role of the women is a very important aspect of the preservation of the paintings and works of art, it is an ironic insight into the idea that women’s work is usually behind the scenes, or is overshadowed by the more impressive or “showy” work of men.

Looking at Elizabeth Spelman’s take on gender roles through chapter three, from a female perspective allowed me to question or understand society’s gender configuration that I had never really noticed before.

The very existence of such books and their messages of “There’s no reason you can’t do this stuff too, ladies!” signal a history of women being considered unsuitable for such work on the grounds that it is too demanding, or is something that would compromise their claim to femininity. (pg 28)

As a female, hearing the words “A girl can do anything!” seems like the most empowering statement in the world. Yeah– I can do anything! The stereotypical connotations in connection to living as a female, overshadow our character and potential. How many times have we as humans, not just women heard the saying “You throw like a girl” or “You run like a girl”? The saying in itself puts a negative tone on the idea of being a female. But why? In what ways is the act of being a girl negative? In regards to the notion of repair, society’s outlook on gender is in my opinion in need of some fine tuning.

As a young girl, hearing someone tell you that you can do anything, opens up what feels like a path of endless possibilities. I know for me personally, seeing my mother getting up every morning at two thirty in the morning for her job, and work long and tiring hours in a position that she was and still is the only one to hold, gave me an outlook far from the idea that women were lesser viewed in society. I witnessed with my own eyes what it meant for a woman to work. Not just work, but be a hard and efficient worker at their craft and only expect the best from the outcome.

So why should we have to say girls can do anything in the first place? Is it because women were excluded from the work force for far too long? Is it because women did not gain the right to vote until the twentieth century? Whatever reason it may be, makes the statement ‘Girls can do anything’, far less empowering than it was as a young girl, when I was innocent to the reasons of which this goal was presented. Instead of it being, girls can do anything, it should be anyone can do anything! Because women are just as much a part of the fluidity of society as men.

In addition, Spelman focuses her take on gender roles through how it is presented in the household. According to Spelman, the role of women is to essentially repair the emotional aspect within the home, usually meaning the relationships presented in the household. Whereas on the other hand, the mens role is to use their masculinity to fix or repair the physical damage of the house such as a broken table or with his tool box in the garage. Masculinity versus femininity presented in the most stereotypical way. Physical and emotional.

Gender is no longer the black and white subject it used to be in society. Gender is both a specific and broad topic that effects everyone in a different way. Whether you see it as Spelman and how she presents her specific point of view in Repair, or you disagree completely, gender roles will always have their place — hopefully ever changing place — in society.

Reparations to Repair?

Imagine being discriminated, kicked out, and hated by your country. How would you feel? And then down the road, you are soon apologized too. Would you accept that apology on behalf of the country? If not, would you accept money instead of a formal apology? Is a reparation the only way to repair a broken past, present, or future? That is the topic in Chapter 5 of Elizabeth Spelman’s Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Humans are delicate people and sometimes wounds, both mental and physical, are unrepairable, no matter how much money is thrown their way.

Reparations have been payed to victims of various events for many years. In the words of Spelman, “Such payments seem harsh and unfeeling, to suggest that whoever or whatever was damaged can be repaired or restored with cold cash”. Yeah sure, it would be nice to collect a little bit of cash from the government years after a major wrongdoing. But what is that small sum of money going to do? Many governments believe by doing this, they can easily apologize to the victims and easily end the scrutiny for them. Little do they know that the little sump of money they are sending out will do such little in the grand scheme of things.

Take for example the Japanese Internment Camps that were erected soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Almost all Japanese Americans living in the western part of the United States were sent away to remote places in deserts, mountains, etc. for almost four years. During those four years, how would those people be able to make money? And then 40 years later, our government decides to compensate them. Many of the people in those camps might have died by that time, so what kind of apology does that do for them when they are not even there to accept it?

“Apology is more about the wrongdoer than it is about the wrong done and the person to whom the wrong was done”.

This quote really speaks volume about the real meaning of an apology and how it is not really about the victim forgiving, but about the perpetrator acknowledging his/her mistake and trying to make up for it. I think that is what really gets lost in the grand scheme of things. Apologies mean that something didn’t just happen, it is because somebody is responsible for the act that was committed that either effected or hurt somebody. That is not even all of the process because once the apology has been given, the rehabilitation process then begins its own course.

You here it all the time in regards to professional athletes and injuries, how they are rehabbing a knee injury or taking time off from the season to rehab another injury. Apologies and reparations kind of go hand in hand in some regard. Once that reparation has been given, some victims and families feel compensated and start to move forward with their lives now that they finally have some form of closure. But for others, the pain still continues and they still have to live with it for some time. The rehabilitation process for some can be short and sweet, but it also can be a nagging period of time that feels like a living nightmare. Many people think that with money, all is forgiven. However, most of the time that is not the case. A small donation will not do the victim justice for what was committed to then or someone they knew. And as Nenia Campbell said, “You can’t put a price on a human life”.

With all that said and done, are reparations an acceptable form of an apology? Of course, many people would agree it is acceptable and many would agree that it is not. I personally believe that reparations are a sort of “cop out” way of apologizing to somebody. It basically is a bribe to the person to stop making a big deal out of it. However, money talks and some people will gladly accept that and move on. In my opinion, apologies should be meaningful and not in monetary form. In order to be repaired, one must feel closure from what was done to them and a formal, emotional apology is what is needed.