Common App Essay Draft (Pr.2)

I was seven when I started walking to and from school with my dad, then my best friend, now I walk alone to the bus stop at my elementary school. When I walked with my friend we used to drop our backpacks onto the ground halfway through the path and race the rest of the way to a red swing at the end of the path. Whoever reached there first got to swing first: he always won.

This walk to and from my elementary school each day has saved my life; the creek I walked through was the beginning of my appreciation for nature; and the water running through the creek has run through my entire life.

The path is right next to flowing water that brave young feet used to glide into. The creek is surrounded by trees of all shades of green. I don’t remember when I started appreciating the color green, but I know I was young. I have always been easily distracted by how beautiful trees are when they are all different shades mixing in the wind. In elementary school, instead of going home right after school, my best friends and I used to go to a part of the creek that we called “the beach.” We made broken glass collections out of the glass we found in the sand, we did homework, we picked up litter, we ate berries off the trees and sucked sweet juice out of flowers on the ground, and we made dams out of twigs and rocks and then broke them when we realized we were disturbing the flow of the creek. This was our way of recuperating after long days of school.

As we progressed through middle and high school the stress only got more intense, and we came to the creek less often, and then not at all. Except when I walked through it on my way to the bus stop.

I never realized how much that creek was getting me through the days until junior year, when everything hit at once. It seemed like every aspect of my life was turning against me: politics, family, friends, school, standardized testing. I was questioning everything and everyone and all of the things I used to think of as constants. The only aspect of my life that stayed true the whole time was my walk through the creek. When one aspect of my life after another disappointed me, I found myself lingering at the creek longer and longer on my walks home.

Eventually I started swinging on the red swing again. I did not race to it anymore as I used to. Instead, I placed my bag down next to it and slowly lifted off the ground. Soon, I started kicking my feet off the ground as a symbol for everything that stressful or enraging. First swing: the quiz I should have earned a better grade on. Second: The english project I don’t have time for. Third: the funeral I don’t have the emotional strength to get through.

In retrospect, I would not have made my through the year, or been successful as I was in it, if it weren’t for my daily walks through that creek and the swinging routine of stress. This is why I am such a freak about picking up litter and “saving the planet.” This is why I am pursuing a degree in environmental science. I have been raised, consoled, and taught by nature and I can’t let it be destroyed.

I want to protect nature so that everyone who comes after me gets to experience the way a soft breeze on a sunny day can make you smile when nothing else can. I want children for generations to come to grow up in nature and be healed by it. I want my kids to walk through a creek everyday and learn more from it than anything school can teach them. And I want to continue to be taught by nature.

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Collection Piece #1: Art from the Streets, News

Reflection:

On a Saturday my friends and I decided to go to an annual art sale event at the Austin Convention Center. All of my friends love art and free events to go to on a Saturday. This was not just ANY art sale, though. It was a part of Austin’s deep artistic culture, and our tradition as a city to help people using their talents and our own. This was an organization that provided art supplies to homeless people to allow them to make art and then sell it to the people of Austin. Its not a pity show, either: it is genuinely amazing art. One of my best friends who also happens to be my Newspaper buddy was also there with me. We weren’t assigned the story in class, but we thought it was something important happening in Austin (our school’s community), so we pulled out our phones and wrote down some observations, took some pictures, interviewed a few artists with the “Voice Recording” app, and interviewed one of the founders of the project. I am proud of this piece because story it tells is amazing and I am proud of the initiative we took to tell it.

There is a mini photo gallery on the Polaris Press where it was originally published, therefore it won’t look as good on here, so I’ll just link you straight there.

Visual Piece #2: ARS News, Dress for Success featured image

Reflection: This image is the featured image on the Polaris Press for my photo gallery about Dress for Success. The gallery is one of my “Show Off” pieces and this is my favorite photo from that gallery. The students in this picture were so glamorous and so proud of dressing up, and the picture captures that glow in their faces and in professionalism of the picture. The photo is crisp. The poses create almost a “leading lines” effect. Their smiles are natural and genuine. The lighting and coloring is perfect. They look happy, professional, and dignified. It truly encompasses the way juniors feel the first time the Dress for Success at Ann Richards.

Image:

Visual Piece #1: Sports, Track Info graphic

Reflection: I am proud of this visual because I transformed data that was not particularly fun or appealing to read into something that makes people want to look at. There were AMAZING accomplishments made by our track team this year and I thought that was something people deserve to get recognized for, not just in a Monday morning assembly, but on the website dedicated to our school news. The track team should be able to tell their parents or guardians to go to our school news site and find their name on a beautiful commemoration of their work. It also went in the school newspaper which was distributed to all of our students, teachers, and staff, along with stores/eateries around the school, so I needed it to be something that caught the reader’s eye and said, “hey, this is an important thing we did that you should be proud of and celebrate.” I accomplished that goal. I worked on Canva.com, a website I often use to create visuals for the Polaris Press. It took a lot of tweaking, coloring, adding shapes and images, and adding information, but it was worth it. People can now view the accomplishments of the track team in an appealing way.

It is particularly pleasing on the newspaper surrounded by other sports pictures and beautiful design, but I can’t post that here (yet). It is also much more appealing on our website than it will be here, so I am just linking it here so you can see it on our website.

Progress: Beyond Our Walls, Breaking Brexit vs. Fidel Fell

Reflection: Beyond Our Walls is a very versatile genre and stories in this genre can go in many different directions stylistically. It is also hard to find a focus in these genres, and to stick to that focus through multiple interviews while also letting the story take shape around the perspectives of the interviews. With my story “Breaking Brexit” I had written excellent Beyond Our Walls stories before (see: “What toMauro holds for Hillary”), but never one that is so distant from our school. Brexit was a huge focus of politics when it happened, especially at my family dinner conversations as my father is British, but it was hard to find people at ARS who had legitimate opinions or even complete knowledge about the event. I wanted to make the story relevant to us, to include actual ARS community members in the story, and to make it informational for readers. I interviewed my father’s British friend, a politically knowledgeable teacher, and a student with British relatives. The interviews all had pretty different focuses so I struggled with putting them all together in a story that flowed. The final story was good, but it was not fantastic. Later, I wrote a story about the “death” of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro titled “Fidel Fell.” My grandpa came to America from Cuba during the Castro revolution and he has distinct memories of the church he grew up in being involved in the revolution- I am Cuban. It seemed fitting that I take this story, but like Brexit, it was a bit disconnected from the Ann Richards community. I interviewed my Cuban grandpa, our Venezuelan Spanish teacher, and a particularly politically aware student about Castro’s death. The interviews were still difficult to put together in a well-written story, but this time I did better because of my experience with “Breaking Brexit.” Clearly, practice helps. I managed to make the story much more applicable to our students while maintaining the integrity of the story. The quotes I chose to use were more relevant and my writing was better.

Breaking Brexit:
Liberals who assumed the United States and England were moving forward politically with them are stunned at the most recent decisions in their countries.

“I’m not a [US] citizen yet,” Ben Wright, a British member of staff at the University of Texas at Austin, said. “I actually decided on Wednesday to pull my application. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the pledge of allegiance anyway and the whole oath, and the fact that it would be Donald Trump on the wall of the DMV when I went in to do it… I just think I’m going to keep my options open.”

Keeping his options open, but feeling lost. Wright recently checked out emotionally from Britain (his home country) because of the majority vote for Brexit.

“I think refugees and homeless people go through problems that I will never go through,” Wright said. “But I do feel sort of politically, culturally homeless; sort of displaced in between my homeland, which is going bonkers politically, and here which is going bonkers politically. So I can’t imagine what other refugees, who have faced crazy populace in their home countries feel… They come here, and look who get’s elected. That’s rough.”

The votes for Brexit and President – Elect Donald Trump were two very different elections, and seemingly different issues – but the outcomes could have been influenced by the same ideas.

“It shows the same sort of ability of angry, disenfranchised people to come out of the woodwork,” Wright said. “Everyone talks about how the rural American way of life is in trouble, and it’s slipping away- so is the black way of life, so is the hispanic way of life- and they don’t all go nihilistic and racist on us. So, there’s something else going on too, which is racism. There is no economic excuse for it. I think that’s the same case in England as well; [The economy] is context, not an excuse.”

History teacher Ms. Pamela Mathai says that a large similarity between the voters for Brexit and the voters for the winner of the U.S. Presidential Election is that they used the economy as an “excuse” for their decisions.

“We live in a time period where we like to think that racism is something of the past, and sexism against women is no longer an issue,” Ms. Mathai said. “But I think Brexit made it really clear that there was a lot of islamophobia, and a lot of fear of syrian refugees, and migrant communities coming into England, and disrupting the communities, or what they see as disrupting the communities that are already there.”

Britain and the United States are characteristically more left than right in politics, economics, and social aspects. However, both countries have made largely conservative decisions within the past year: Electing Donald Trump for the President of the United States, and Britain choosing to exit from the European Union.

“The reality is, and this is how it’s been historically, throughout our nation and in other countries historically: When the economy is in crisis or when people are feeling left out of the economy, one way to redirect anger [instead of directing anger at the economy itself or at the people in power], is people use race as a way to blame problems and shift anger and anxiety onto people who are different than us and blame them for our economic problems,” Ms. Mathai said. “Instead of looking at: How is our system flawed? How are the people in power not making good decision for us? I think those things are very connected.”

According to Wright, perhaps it is good that Trump was elected now so that we are forced to address the racism that drove these decisions. He says that we now have to pay attention to the people who are voting for Donald Trump and Brexit, or else it’s going to bite us in the butt.

“There was a lot of reporting before Brexit happened around similarities between people who supported Brexit and people who supported Donald Trump,” history teacher Mathai said. “And I don’t think that that’s an accident.”

However, Eleanor Bailey (11) argues a different point, saying that these two decisions were driven by separate agendas.

“I think that the election of Donald Trump is worse,” Bailey said. “It not only involves the politics and the economics, it also involves the social aspect… Brexit was mostly an economic issue, in my opinion.”

Our election was also worse in Bailey’s opinion because of the effects it will have on the youth of America.

“Donald Trump being elected president means that hateful comments like the ones he’s made are now being seen as okay by the youth of America, who don’t really understand what it means to say those things,” Bailey said. “All they know is that if the president can say those things, why can’t I? That’s to me is the scariest part of this whole thing. Not his policies, none of that, just the fact that a man who says these things is the most powerful person in our country.”

Perhaps we did break Brexit, seeing that according to Bailey, our election has much more at stake than the economy. If Brexit does get approved by the congress of Britain, however, it is much more permanent.

“Which is good news for America because it’s only over four years,” Wright said. “But for Britain this could be graver because once you’re out [of the European Union], you’re out. It’s like selling a house in Austin, you’re never gonna get back in.”

There is the permanent aspect of Brexit, the lasting social impact of the U.S. Presidential Election, the racist and economical impacts of both, and most importantly the political technicalities of both. Depending on where a person is from or where their priorities lie now, anyone can decide for themselves whether or not they approve of these country wide decisions- and if they don’t approve of them, they can decide which one breaks the other.

Fidel Fell:

Almost every day in the news this week there has been reporting on the death of Fidel Castro; how it is affecting Cubans, mourning or celebrating; how it will affect the U.S. and other political and economic powers; how everything down to the culture in Cuba may change.

“It’s a really sad event, because I think he did [good things] for a lot of people,” Kai Bovik (10) said. “And while he needs to be criticized like any leader, he still did a lot of good, and so it was a pretty tragic event.”

Many people are surprised at some Cuban’s reactions to Castro’s death- he is depicted as a ruthless dictator, and yet Cubans are grieving his death. Bovik was not super educated on Castro before his death, but took the opportunity to learn more about him after seeing so many people in mourning.

“I found that he was very controversial: He did a lot of good for the third world people, he increased literacy rates and health care,” Bovik said. “But he also, for example, had strict policies on freedom of speech and things like that. Also, he apparently had some homophobic policies. So while he definitely needed to be criticized, and there were some things that I did not agree with, overall I think he did a lot of good.”

People may especially think of Castro as a negative figure because of the influence of Cuban- Americans

“I read somewhere that a lot the Cuban people in America were people who were exiled by Castro, or family of people who were exiled by Castro,” Bovik said. “So I think that those people might be happy about [his death], or may be glad that the person who tore apart their family is gone.”

A Venezuelan perspective comes from Spanish teacher Mr. Carlos Ruiz who grew up admiring Fidel Castro and Che Guevara for their ability to stand up to the most powerful countries in the world, like the United States. Now he is glad that Castro is gone and Cuba has a chance to change, because of the negative things Castro did in office such as: controlling information on the internet in Cuba, hiding starving Cubans from the public eye, suppress the freedom of speech.

“I think that Raul Castro- [Fidel’s] brother, who is just five years younger (85 years old)- is more open to new ideas,” Ruiz said. “And he understands better the economic system that they created is not working, and it has not worked for years. So he’s going to be more open to have better relationships with the United States, and with other countries.”

Carlos Lopez, 93, grew up in Cuba and left just before Castro’s dictatorship. Lopez believes that it was time for Castro to die because he had been dictator for too long, and had been sick for five or so years.

“Right now Cubans in America are celebrating the end of Fidel’s days and his power in Cuba,” Lopez said. “Of course, his brother Raul is still in charge of governing the country- although he has said he plans to retire during the next year. I think the Cubans in Cuba are hoping that when Raul leaves office, the US will help Cuba recover economically and establish a true representative government.”

Ruiz said that under Castro, Cuba was continuing an economic parasite of communist dictatorships, drawing inspiration from Russia and Venezuela and spreading the broken system further. When Venezuela was going through trouble, they could not ask Cuba for help because Cuba had followed their footsteps. So, Venezuela turned to the U.S. for help.

“But right now it’s unclear how the USA will deal with Cuba,” Lopez said. “We will have to wait and see what incoming President Donald Trump will do and how his government will treat Cuba. My fear is that the Cubans will be disappointed with what this country offers and does.”

Show Off Piece #3: Entertainment, Fantastic Beasts Review

Reflection:

I’m proud of this piece because I have never been good at or liked writing reviews. When I decided to write this piece I was a little but apprehensive about being able to write a quality feature on such a monumental movie for a large portion of our school population: Harry Potter fans. Turns out, I delved into this piece and made it the “feature” styled review it deserved to be. When a dominating franchise like Harry Potter creates another branch of movies it is something to think about deeply and talk about. That is why I wrote about the movie’s connection to the original Harry Potter series, how it will become it’s own entity while still staying connected to the original series, how existing Harry Potter fans will respond to this (including myself), and how the details in the movie itself guarantee success. I restructured this review many times because it was hard to determine what people reading the story (HP fans) will want to know first and what will keep them reading. I made sure that it was readable to non-fans and I wanted to include aspects of the movie that were not connected to the original series. It is it’s own movie, after all. Overall, I’m proud of my ability to write such a good feature with extremely little experience in this genre, and my ability to include so many aspects of the movie while still making the story sensible.

Story:

Photo by Vimeo.com from Buddha Jones (Feb. 2016).

Dedicated fans of the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling have adamantly followed each addition to the wizarding world (in books and movies); And the recent movie release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has the whole world flipping out.

In the new movie, which is soon to become a series, the author of the fictional book called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is introduced: Newt Scamander. Known by most followers of Rowling’s universe, Fantastic Beasts was a required textbook in Harry Potter’s first year at Hogwart’s School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.*

Another reference to the HP series that only fans will notice is the appearance of Gellert Grindelwald. Grindelwald is the famous wizard who possessed the Elder Wand until an interaction with Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the wizard who had a famous duel with Albus Dumbledore, which is alluded to in the HP series. Rowling said that the Fantastic Beasts series will “probably” end up being five movies, according to her plotting. Fans speculate, according to the dates that the series will take place, that it will end in a bang with the famous Grindelwald vs. Dumbledore duel in the fifth movie.

Like every past Harry Potter movie, Fantastic Beasts was beautifully developed in its storyline and its characters. The audience is drawn in with a few central characters and their missions, only to discover with them a greater dilemma. We are taken through the layers of the wizarding world government, wizarding social norms, and the personal quests of the characters, inevitably captured in masterful scriptwriting, filmmaking, and acting. As much as I appreciated this, as a Harry Potter fanatic, the movie could also be easily enjoyed by any other person because of the engaging storyline, character development, and filmography.

For those in the HP fandom, this movie wasn’t just references to the original series. This was returning to the familiarity of the wizarding world, with all of its comforting quirks that we love so much: self writing pens, scary looking creatures that are actually quite loving, magically bottomless bags, food that makes itself, and – most importantly – the wizards. I know we are all looking forward to the journey that Rowling will take us on in this series, and we are excited to fall in love with all of the characters we will come to know.

*In 2001, J.K. Rowling released the book, written by her (in the HP series it is written by Newt Scamander), which Potter fans could buy as if it were the textbook read in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She did it to entertain her fans, but also to benefit her community; More than 80% of the cover price of each sold book goes to poor children around the world. The combined profits of this book and Quidditch Through the Ages (another textbook from Hogwarts) raised 15.7 million dollars.

Show Off Piece #2: Photo gallery, Dress for Success

Reflection:

I am particularly proud of this piece because photography is one of my weakness, so my ability to take these amazing photos makes me feel especially accomplished. When I chose this story it was not because I wanted to take photos, it was because I thought the story would bring a lot of views to the site. People like to see themselves, especially in “professional” photographs where they look even more glamorous than usual. Not to mention, this was an important story; Internships are a huge milestone in the ARS experience and many students look forward to them from the time they see Juniors all dressed up in their first year here. Juniors see the “Dress for Success” as the beginning of this journey, and as the beginning to their journey into the real world/college. So, because I thought this story was so important for everyone to see on the site and to be able to go back and look at later, I took the challenge of dreaded photography. Turns out, it improved my photography skills a lot- and get this- I enjoyed it! I improved my photo taking, editing, and uploading skills. Plus, I worked with the technology of the Polaris Press website to be able to upload these photos in an appealing manner. These are some of the best photos I have ever taken and one of the best pieces of coverage I’ve ever produced.

Story:

Click here to view photo gallery on the Polaris Press.

Show Off Piece #1: Beyond Our Walls Feature, What toMauro holds for Hillary

Reflection:

I am extremely proud of this piece and it is definitely my favorite piece that I have ever written. First of all, it shows my impressive interview skills. Gary Mauro is a famous Texan democrat politician and he also happens to be a family friend. He was in charge of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in Texas, and my dad suggested I request to interview him; given that she is might be the first female president and I go to an all girls school created by a famous female Texan politician, and Gary Mauro got his start in politics by working with Hillary Clinton and then Ann Richards. I had a focus for the piece but I also let the interviewee, and focus of the feature, take the interview where it naturally should go. I had a set of questions, but when there was something interesting he mentioned, I asked follow up questions about it. This allowed my piece to provide the readers with information and also with an engaging story to read. If I am using good quotes in my piece, people will be more inclined to read it and recommend it to other people. Naturally, the way a person is affected by a story lies mostly in the subject of the story not in the way the author writes it.

However, my writing in this story is particularly good in comparison to my other work as well. I remember I had a lot to do for school the day I wrote this story, but instead of working on schoolwork, I sat down in the Journalism Lab (J-Lab) and typed out the hour-long interview. I skipped lunch and advisory and pieced together the story bit by bit with every visual and auditory detail I could depict while still making the information relevant. At the time, I was reading “Story Craft” by Jack Hart so that book greatly guided my writing process. I decided to try a narrative lead and it turned out great. I rearranged the quotes and filler paragraphs about 20 times before I settled on the flow of my piece. Overall, I put a lot of effort into the piece and none at all- it seemed to flow directly from my heart. Of course, most of the credit for this piece goes to my interviewee, Gary Mauro, who provided me with amazing quotes.

Story:

Deep blue walls and light red oak shelves are filled meticulously with pictures and plaques awarding service and proud politicians. Garry Mauro sits relaxed at his desk filled with papers, comfortable in the stress of a political campaign.

Mauro is fluent in the language of politics: The “nitty gritty” of signing bills and gaining supporters, as well as the speeches he considers chores. Although, Mauro has learned to appreciate the importance of speeches because of their influence on the political stage.

The phone rang in Mauro’s two bedroom mobile home in June of 1972, and when he picked up the phone, Hillary Clinton (at the time Hillary Rodham) was on the other end. She was asking him to help the National Democratic Committee register students, Hispanics, and African Americans to vote in order to overcome the voter intimidation they were having in Texas.

“We spent a lot of time travelling and going door to door,” Mauro said. “I was totally impressed with her… How brilliant she was, and at the same time how comfortable she was.”

Comfortable, Mauro said, in cities that she had never been to, with high crime and poverty rates, going door to door and facing open sewers. Clinton was unfazed by this, with only her objective in mind.

Now, forty four years later, Mauro serves as the Chairman of Texas for Hillary. Within those forty four years, Mauro worked continuously throughout Texas politics; The highest position he held was alongside Ann Richards while she served as governor and he served as Texas Land Commissioner. Mauro held the position for longer than anyone else has, serving for sixteen years.

A shelf in Mauro's office holds a plaque commending his work as Texas Land Commissioner. Photo by Ally Wait.

Elected for Texas Land Commissioner at age thirty three, Mauro remarks, “I kind of grew up in the land office; [Ann Richards’] favorite line about me was, ‘I’ve been working with Garry so long… Well, when I first started working with him, I still had to cut his meat up for him.’ That’s just typical Ann.”Richards hated the “nitty gritty” of politics but loved the speeches, whereas Mauro and Clinton are the exact opposite. While Richards gave speeches that have gone down in history, Clinton has passed seventy-nine laws co-sponsored by republicans (a very difficult task to accomplish as a democrat). As Mauro says, politics are all about compromise.

“Ann always kept in mind her sense of history and theatrics,” Mauro said. “She loved big speech, and she love the idea that she could be a role model for girls (women)… and men. Men rethinking women’s roles in America. Also, getting women to rethink what they thought they could do in life.”

Despite Richards’ drastic effect on women in politics through her success on the national stage, Clinton still faces reluctance from voters as a woman running for president.

“I’ve lived my life thinking that women could do everything… It was the way I was raised,” Mauro said. “I have a hard time internalizing to this day, that [Americans] are going to hold her to a different standard than anybody else; and it’s because she’s a woman.”

According to Mauro, people talk more openly against women and people of color now than they did when Ann Richards was campaigning.

“There was a different tone of civility in politics then,” Mauro said. “Nobody would talk about discriminating against someone because of their religion, which is commonplace now in the republican party.”

Mauro dedicates office wall space to his fellow politicians. There were photos of him with the Clintons, and Ann Richards, action shots of them at rallies and conventions, and political cartoons from previous  elections. Photo by Ally Wait.

Voters arguing against a woman’s ability to hold office is not Clinton’s most troublesome matter; running against republican nominee Donald Trump has the center stage of her problems.“We knew that there was a possibility that Trump would get the nomination… But I don’t think anybody anticipated that he would win,” Mauro said. “We probably believed that Jeb Bush would be the nominee and we thought we were going to run a traditional campaign.”

Hillary’s campaign team expected hype and lies from the opposing republican nominee, but Trump has completely blown this expectation out of the water by going further down this path than anyone in memory; The New York Times found over twenty instances, just in one debate, of Trump’s statements to be “pants on fire” lies. The republican congress spent over twenty million dollars investigating Clinton about Benghazi emails and questioned her for eleven hours on national television, only to find no proof of wrongdoing.

“[Clinton’s] just a strong woman. To be trite when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” Mauro said with a chuckle. “I don’t mean to be trite, but I am a Texan. And she’s tough. She has real core values and she has been able to stand up. She really knows who she is.”

Mauro compares a quote from an old classic movie scene to the constant lies Trump has been telling in his campaign. In the scene, a man tumbles out of his car at a drive in movie theater holding his girlfriend, and looks up to see his wife standing above him. The man says, “Are you gonna believe your eyes or are you gonna believe me?”

Mauro wishes Richards was around for this campaign so that she could inject some humor into it, where Clinton is “just the facts, ma’am.” Clinton does have a great sense of humor with her close friends and family according to Mauro, but Richards was more public and political in her humor. He imagines what Richards would say to students at The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders now, if she were still here.

“‘Honey, you can do anything you wanna do, you just gotta decide to do it, and you can’t let any of these men get in your way… You gotta believe in yourself,’” Mauro imitates Ann’s accent, only slightly more Texan than his. “I can even hear her saying it… except she’d say it a lot better than I just did.”

Jazz: How is our humanity defined by the way we pursue love?

In Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz the main characters struggle with what it means to love and be loved, what is means to betray someone, and why we pursue love the way we do. Violet perhaps pursues love because of the stories of love she was told as a child, and possibly fills the void of desire for the legend “golden boy” by marrying a black man. Joe Trace grew up with instability and no father figure, so it is possible he pursues love in the pursuit of stability and affection. Within Joe’s stable marriage with Violet, he seeks another love with a younger woman; maybe he longed for the instability he grew comfortable with as a child, or maybe he thought his love for Violet was insincere. Dorcas, the younger woman Joe had an affair with, pursued any love she could find and later sought love that she had to work for (someone who almost seemed too good for her).

Through Joe’s affair with Dorcas, Dorcas’ search for love, and Violet’s revenge seeking in her book Jazz, Morrison shows us that our experiences define the way we pursue love, and consequently love defines our humanity.

First, our experiences define our pursuit of love. As shown by Harvard professor Christine M. Korsgaard’s essay “Valuing Our Humanity,” we pursue what is good for ourselves and the people we love, as rational human beings. Therefore, our pursuit of love is defined by the people we love and our own benefit. As humans we also seek what appears to be good from our point of view. Korsgaard claims that, by deciding what is good in our own terms and pursuing it merely based on those terms, we put value on our own judgement and therefore value our own humanity.

Morrison supports this conclusion in Jazz by showing stories of the characters pursuing love for their own benefit, to achieve what seems to them to be good. For example, Joe pursues instability because that is what seems good to him; Violet pursues understanding because that is what seems good to her; Dorcas pursues desire because that is what seems good to her. These all define their humanity, because their pursuit of love shows what they believe is important to achieve.

Throughout the novel, Morrison sidetracks the story by telling the backgrounds of main characters. It seems unnecessary, but it gives context that allows the reader to understand the characters more deeply. Why would we need to know about the upbringing of a girl, Dorcas, who had an affair with the man, Joe Trace, married to the main character, Violet? More importantly, why did a seventeen year old girl have an affair with a man in his fifties? The fact that Morrison wrote about Dorcas’ childhood, her aunt’s overbearing rules, and her unsuccessful teen romantic life, shows that these things all played into her fatal love affair.

Fatal, I might add, because Joe shot her in his pursuit of love in chapter 1, in the very first paragraph: “He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deep down, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going.” Dorcas could have survived, could have asked for help in the crowded party she was at, could have made it to the hospital and survived; but she didn’t want people to help her and she didn’t want anyone to know who shot her. Why would she protect the man who stole her life?

It all starts with the way Dorcas discovered love in her most impressionable years: secretly. Her aunt, Alice Manfred, was staunchly afraid of the way The City (Harlem), the place which the main plot takes place, experienced love. The City was filled with Jazz, seduction, and everything that can define the dangerous sexual exploration of the 1920’s. Manfred was afraid of it and did everything in her power to keep her niece from experiencing. Naturally, Dorcas did everything in her power to experience The City and its sexuality. Joe Trace was charming and affectionate, and he was the first opportunity for “love” that was offered to Dorcas in the form of an affair. Joe easily persuaded Dorcas to love him back, and soon they were both deeply in love with each other. Later, Dorcas leaves Joe for a boy her age who was very difficult in winning her affections.

Dorcas’ humanity is defined by these pursuits of love because when she became involved in them she was immediately consumed. She let her love affairs take her life completely, therefore her humanity became desire. Dorcas was defined by the way her lovers saw her and she was desperate for more. This is shown in chapter 3, paragraph 17: Resisting her aunt’s protection and restraining hands, Dorcas thought of that life-below-the-sash as all the life there was.”  

Violet, Joe’s wife, dealt with the knowledge of Joe and Dorcas’ affair by being consumed in the humanity of Dorcas. She went to Dorcas’ funeral and tried to cut her face off, then found and befriended Dorcas’ aunt, trying to find out everything she possibly could about this girl. Violet almost completely ignored her own husband and became as obsessed with Dorcas as he was.

This makes sense because Violet grew up listening to love stories and fairy tales and she fantasized about a passionate love affair. Therefore, when her husband experienced one, she wanted to understand it and put herself in the shoes of the girl. Instead of taking revenge on her husband or finding another outlet of love for herself, she tried to understand the person who took her love away. Violet’s pursuit of love was understanding, and her humanity is defined by this. Her entire personality was understood by the reader because she showed her humanity through her pursuit of love.

Finally, Joe Trace showed his humanity through his decision to have a love affair with a seventeen year old girl, and then to kill the person he loved most. He grew up with a lot of instability, with a mother nicknamed “Wild” by people the towns surrounding the forest she lives in, and a childhood of picking up different jobs throughout the year to survive. The way he pursued at first was marrying the first woman he felt love for and settling down with her very quickly; this shows his pursuit of love as a pursuit of stability, and therefore displays his humanity as desperate.

Then, when Joe “decides” to have a love affair with Dorcas and ultimately kill her, he shows his pursuit of love has changed to a pursuit  of instability—as if he wants to return to the instability he grew comfortable with as a child.

The ways all of the characters in Jazz pursue love are vastly different, and they all seek different kinds of love, and they all love for different reasons. Ultimately, though, they are all just seeking love; and this pursuit defines their humanity in the sense that it defines their outlook on life and the way they live it, including the way they treat the people around them.

Sources

Burton, Zisca Isabel, and Harold Bloom. Bloom’s How to Write about Toni Morrison. E-book, New York, Chelsea House, 2008. Harold Bloom’s instructional book takes the reader through the process of writing literary criticism essays, specifically for Toni Morrison’s novels. This is helpful to me because I am writing a literary criticism on Morrison’s novel “Jazz.” The chapter focusing on “Jazz” describes, in depth, the topics and themes that could be used in writing about the book and how the reader can manipulate the text to create a masterful literary criticism on it. It directly connects the literature I am writing about to the piece of literature I am creating about it. Bloom’s book also will help me develop my question to focus my essay on.

Korsgaard, Christine M. Valuing Our Humanity. Harvard, PhD dissertation. HUIT, Harvard College, http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~korsgaar/CMK.Valuing.Our.Humanity.pdf. Christine M. Korsgaard discusses what it means to be human and how we differentiate from other living things in our humanity. This is relevant to my essay because I am writing about how our pursuit of love affects our humanity. Korsgaard goes into the subject of love in relation to humanity a little bit which I plan to talk about in my essay; Korsgaard states that as rational human beings, we love things that are good for us, but different people may have different definitions of what is good for them, which in turn will affect their humanity. 

Morrison, Toni. Jazz. New York, Vintage Books, 2006.

Neelakantan, G., and Sathyaraj Venkatesan. “Toni Morrison’s Quarrel with the Civil Rights Ideology in Love.” The International Fiction Review, vol. 34, nos. 1-2, 2007. The International Fiction Review, journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/IFR/article/view/4231/4764. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017. This journal article provides an explanation of Toni Morrison’s connection between the Civil Rights movement and love. The writer shows how Morrison is influenced in her romantic novels by black culture in America, how the Civil Rights movement was influenced by love, and how the Civil Rights movement influenced the interpretation of love in black people. The content in this article will be helpful to me when I’m writing my essay on how our humanity is influenced by love, because it shows directly how love influences Civil Rights. 

Campus Carry Rebuttal

To Dallas Morning News

Dennis McCuistion said in his article on Dallas Morning News that the campus carry law will make students and staff safer, citing the opinions of police officers and statistics about death by guns. Another argument he makes is that the idea of “good guys” carrying guns will scare the “bad guys” into not taking the chance to shoot people.

I disagree wholly that guns make anyone safer. It is true that “guns don’t kill, people do,” but guns definitely make it easier. A campus is much safer with absolutely no guns on it than a campus that relies on students to patrol potentially dangerous students carrying guns, always in anticipation for something bad to happen.

First of all, McCuistion claimed that guns would make people feel safer with the idea that there are licensed students on campus that  have guns to protect them. I am almost a college student and I know what makes me feel safe and what makes me feel unsafe: guns. No matter whose hands they are in, guns do  not make me feel safe. This feeling of safety he talks about comes from the assumption that in every classroom with a potential shooter there is a “good guy” with a gun. Also, as stated by John M. Crisp in his article, “Arms in the class is too risky for one prof” on Dallas Morning News, this is assuming that the “good guy” with the gun is trained, has a clear shot, and is able to stay calm in that high stress, life threatening situation.

Secondly, McCuistion cites police officers. Police officers are highly trained shooters and likely have the presumption that everyone with a gun is highly trained as they are. Police officers are also influenced by the community of America they exist in, where everyone has a gun to make themselves feel safer; and they shoot people whenever they feel threatened (usually if they think the other person has a gun and has a darker skin tone than themselves). He is citing a group of people with an implicit bias towards guns.

Thirdly, McCuistion states that many shootings are by people who do not even carry the gun with a license: this is just evidence that there needs to be more regulation of guns in America. The lack of regulation just shows how dangerous it is to allow guns on a campus where the police officers can’t check if every gun carrier is licensed, precisely proving McCuistion’s point wrong.

Lastly, he claims that the fear of being shot by a campus carrier “good guy” will cause the “bad guys” to not want to shoot people. If he has ever read about the criminals who do things like shoot up college campuses, he should know that idea is completely ridiculous. Some people who shoot up public spaces are mentally unstable meaning that this fear factor would probably not affect them; and the others are criminals who have no regard for life, whether it is other people’s or their own. They are not scared off by death. This is clear when most shooters put the last bullet in their own heads or commit suicide later (Wired, “Why Spree Killers Kill Themselves”).

The ideal way to stop school shootings is to increase regulations on guns and who can carry them. Colleges should also monitor the students they admit for mental health with yearly check ups and admission requirements of mental health evaluations. Only about 22% of male gun violence perpetrators showed signs of mental illness (New York Times, “Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Gun Violence”), so this is not my main point of how to regulate shootings. However, regulation of student mental health should already be happening, and this requirement of regulation would just be an extra precaution to decrease the likelihood of shootings and even suicides by guns. More importantly, if there is an overall restriction on guns in college campus dorms, classrooms, labs, offices, and all public spaces on guns, there is almost no chance of a shooting occurring.

This restriction of guns prevents mass shootings by criminals with the mental capacity to do so; However, it also prevents the more common situations of domestic gun violence, rape at gunpoint, accidental deaths and injuries at parties by guns, and conflicts which could escalate greatly and result in death if a gun is pulled out. The college experience of learning and personal development should not be interrupted by the elephant in the room which is guns.

So what if someone gets around the restrictions, or come onto campus without being noticed as carrying a gun? There are officers on every college campus for a reason, and they should be able to intervene the unlikely incident that an off-campus perpetrator would come to campus to shoot people. Not to mention, this is a situation that would not be happening in the first place if there were better gun regulations in America.

For the safety of those who are trying to receive an education to better their future, campus carry should be outlawed. For the safety of innocent bystanders in all of America, gun control should be increased. America claims to be the “land of the free, home of the brave,” but how can we be free if we are shackled by fear of our own brothers and sisters? How can we claim to be so brave if we can’t leave the house without a gun to protect ourselves from any minor conflict? Fight for gun control in America and on college campuses, and protect your fellow Americans; not by holding guns to each other’s heads, but by dropping them to the ground.

Sincerely,

Alejandra Wait

 

Sources:

Auyero, Javier. “Guns on Campus Make Colleges Less Safe.” The New York Times, 31 May 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/05/31/should-guns-be-permitted-on-college-campuses/guns-on-campus-make-colleges-less-safe. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.

Crisp, John M. “Arms in Class Too Risky for One Prof.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas], 2 Oct. 2015. Dallas News, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2015/10/12/john-m.-crisp-arms-in-class-too-risky-for-one-prof.

Duwe, Grant. “Pro-con: Should College Campuses Restrict Concealed Weapons?” Dallas News, Oct. 2015, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2015/10/23/pro-con-should-college-campuses-restrict-concealed-weapons. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

Editorial Board. “Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Gun Violence 652.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 15 Dec. 2015, mobile.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/opinion/dont-blame-mental-illness-for-gun-violence.html. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

Wang, Tricia, and An Xiao MIna. “Why Spree Killers Kill Themselves.” Wired, 18 Dec. 2012, http://www.wired.com/2012/12/why-spree-killers-kill-themselves/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.