No Surprise Here

The first time I had heard about Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was about two weeks ago in my Sociology class. I didn’t have any idea of what the film would be about and I was anxious to find out. Now having watched part of it, it is obvious that the film explores the issue of bigotry in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Unfortunately, bigotry and discrimination don’t only exist in one area of Brooklyn, but all over the world today. This would explain why seeing the different ethnic groups in Do The Right Thing treat each other in a manner that is unacceptable came as no surprise to me. Sad but true, it is almost as if we expect to see the African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latin-Americans not getting along with each other. In the scene after Mookie talks to Pino about all of his idols being African-Americans, one individual from each racial community utters racial slurs about members of another community. While it is an eye-opening and excellent scene, I find it hard to believe that anyone who has watched the film has never heard any of those slurs before. Personally, I think the movie would have been far more interesting if the different communities did the exact opposite of fighting and actually did learn to live in peace with each other. More often than not, we watch films and read books about race tearing us apart, instead of bringing us together. What the characters in Do The Right Thing as well as people around the world fail to realize is that although we come from different places, we are all American. But for all I know, Mookie could “do the right thing” and the racial communities will come together in the end. I guess I’ll have to watch the end of the movie to find out!

Blood is Thicker than Water…or not.

When I first started to read Richard II, I found it most difficult to keep up with the familial relationships. I didn’t think it would be that hard to figure out, being that my copy of the play has a family tree at the beginning. However, even after looking it over I was still confused. While reading, I was constantly looking back at previous pages to check who was who and how they were all related. Who knew it could be so convoluted?!

Once I overcame that obstacle, I noticed something about those familial relationships – that regardless of whether they were related or not, some family members treated others just like they would treat a stranger. Nepotism certainly was not a major influence in any part of the play thus far. I noticed it at first when King Richard was giving the sentences to both Mowbray and Bolingbroke. He ends up banishing Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke, who is his cousin, for six years. Yes, it appears that he gave Bolingbroke (who was originally given ten years) the better end of the deal. However, Bolingbroke’s father and King Richard’s uncle, John of Gaunt, is old and will most likely die before his son returns. By shortening the time, I feel that King Richard did not truly pity his uncle because if he did he would have made it significantly shorter, so that he would be alive when Bolingbroke was to return. Another instance where I noticed a lack of care for each other is when King Richard hears that John of Gaunt is dying. One would assume that this would sadden the King, but for his own selfish reasons, he finds happiness in his uncle’s death. He plans to take all of John’s belongings and use them to fund the war in Ireland. Yet another interesting relationship was that of Bolingbroke and his uncle, the Duke of York. Bolingbroke addresses the Duke with respect, but the Duke of York is extremely displeased with Bolingbroke’s return to England, prior to the completion of his six years. The Duke says “I am no traitor’s uncle, and that word ‘grace’/In an ungracious mouth is but profane./ Why have those banished and forbidden legs/ Dared once to touch a dust of England’s ground?” (2. 3. 92-95). Although they are related, the Duke of York has no problem with scolding him for what he has done.

The family dynamic displayed in Richard II is not the kind that I am used to reading about, which is probably why these particular parts bothered me. I guess I will have to keep reading to see if my opinion changes!

To Each His Own

Moliere’s Don Juan tells the story of Don Juan, a womanizer who feels that there is nothing wrong with tearing marriages apart and using women until he no longer feels they are satisfying him. While reading, I couldn’t help but relate Don Juan’s character to the majority of humankind. We are all sinners and frequently do things that may seem right in our own minds, but wrong to those around us. It is those individuals who expose us to a different perspective other than our own and encourage us to be less narrow-minded. In the case of Don Juan, both Sganarelle and Elvire try to make Don Juan aware of the fact that what he is doing is very wrong and that he will be punished for his deeds. Sganarelle tells him that “…an evil life brings an evil death” and that he will be punished for mocking Heaven. Elvire also tells him his “…crime shall not remain unpunished” and that Heaven will punish him. Although some people tend to change their ways after they are told they will be punished, Don Juan was set in his beliefs. He continued to do what he enjoyed and ultimately this led to his demise, and he was punished.

I believe that what Don Juan was doing was extremely wrong and that he did deserve to be punished. Not only was he hurting those around him but he was doing it while benefiting from it. He was given fair warning that it was wrong, and he chose to continue on the path of women and lust anyway, but hey, to each his own.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and School


Growing up with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and School right around the block from me, it would be an understatement to say that they are two very familiar buildings. Although they are not as aesthetically appealing as other structures around Brooklyn, New York, they hold a lot of meaning for me. Serving as both a parishioner and a student for over 10 years has certainly influenced who I am today.

A 1960’s Cinderella Story

“We hadn’t much money but we were happy.”

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship was that of love, friendship, happiness, pain, and great passion – for each other and the arts. At the onset of Just Kids, Patti Smith spoke about Mapplethorpe in such a manner that anyone could tell that he was someone special. Even as I read the Foreword, I could clearly see that there were feelings present in her writing that go way deeper than what was put on paper. He was her knight in shining armor since day one.

In my opinion, one of the things that makes Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s connection stand out among others that I’ve read about is how it began. Not often do you learn of Prince Charming showing up at the right place just in time to save the Princess from something terrible that is about to happen. Upon reading, I felt as if it almost seemed too good to be true, as if all of this love was being built up just so it could slowly fall…

As Robert grew quiet and distant, it became evident that this was exactly what I had been waiting for. The relationship that once seemed so perfect and untouchable was now coming to an end. How could two individuals who were so happy together and had so much in common go their separate ways? What happened after Patti’s return from Paris is another, in my opinion, extraordinary aspect of their relationship – that no matter what happened between them, they managed to find their way back to each other. They made a vow that until they were each able to be independent, they would never leave each other again. Even after his death, I believe that he will always be with Patti Smith, because he impacted her life in such a huge way.

The Newer Colossus

After “reading” Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, I decided that I wanted to begin my blog with a quote. I searched endlessly for the perfect one, but had no luck. Then I came across an excerpt from “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she                                              With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,                                                     Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free                                                     The wretched refuse of your teeming shore                                                           Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,                                                      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The poem, written in 1883, was a result of the inspiration that Lazarus received from the Statue of Liberty. In her opinion, the statue was “The New Colossus” (The Old Colossus is the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and a statue of the Greek Titan Helios that stood at the entrance of the harbor of the island Rhodes). She saw Lady Liberty as a motherly figure that welcomed the immigrants – those who were tired and poor – to the New World. As they entered in the hopes of finding a better life filled with more opportunities, Lazarus says that the Statue of Liberty lifted her torch to guide them and reassure them that the world they left behind is nothing compared to what lies ahead.

I couldn’t help but notice a similarity in the Colossus of Rhodes and “The New Colossus” to Tan’s illustration of the immigrants reaching the harbor that I have appropriately named “The Newer Colossus.” In the picture, there is a structure at the entrance to the city of what appears to be two men leaning in to greet each other with a handshake. They have different hats on, are holding different animals, and are carrying different structures in the boats that they are on, but they have still managed to come together to shake each others hand. This brotherhood and togetherness is what made that new city so appealing to the man in The Arrival, and what makes America so appealing to immigrants from all over the world. In the story, the man has trouble at first with understanding the new world that he has been thrown into. Fortunately, with the help of the young girl, the family, and the elderly man that he meets, he is able to adjust and learn more about the city’s way of life. They all had their own unique stories to tell, just like Americans who come from different backgrounds, but those differences did not and still do not affect the ability to unite and help each other. It is this constant dependency on each other to succeed and be protected that makes the immigration process to America and the New World in The Arrival unlike any other. For what would life be without our brothers and sisters?

Are those who cannot remember the past truly condemned to repeat it?

Throughout life, there are many instances in which we remember things – intentionally and unintentionally – that we have been exposed to at some point in the past. Whether the experience occurred ten hours ago or even ten years ago, the simple act of remembering helps to shape our actions and decisions in the future. But what happens when we can no longer remember? Should we even allow ourselves to get to a point where the only thing left for us to do is forget? Rieff feels that this phenomenon is inevitable. In his opinion, as much as we try to hold onto the past, memories will eventually fade.

In the case of 9/11, most New Yorkers will agree that they will never forget about what happened on that sunny Tuesday morning. It is because of that tragedy that security has become stricter in airports, racial tensions have increased, and a great wave of patriotism has resurfaced among Americans. How could an event that produced such effects and changed the lives of millions simply be forgotten? In his essay, Rieff mentions a quote from George Santayana that states, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If we are doomed to a future where no one understands what it is like to see our nation at its most vulnerable, I believe that it is possible that the national security could again be threatened. If what Rieff is saying is valid, and 9/11 will indeed eventually be forgotten like Pearl Harbor in this generation, then individuals in the future will lead normal lives, security may go back to the way it was before the Twin Towers came down, and no one would even entertain the idea of something like that happening again. Take Pearl Harbor, for example. The idea that tomorrow the Japanese could bomb Hawaii does not make sense to any of us. All of what we know about the 1940’s is what we’ve heard from history textbooks and our ancestors. The same is true, I believe, for 9/11 and the future American citizens.

It is of paramount importance that we continue to remember by participating in memorials, sharing our experiences with each other, and keeping the spirit of America alive. This sense of community and togetherness brought about by something as terrible as 9/11 is what makes so unsusceptible to the enemy. It is what builds an impenetrable wall of safety around the U.S. We cannot forget, because although Rieff believes that to remember is to harbor vengeance and anger, to remember is also to remain strong and unified. And that is what being an American is all about.