Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Accident, Mass Avenue" by Jill McDonough is about the tension and ultimately compassion that is sparked by an accident that resulted in no actual damage or harm.  The poet illustrates how people often don't stop and assess a situation before reacting sometimes violently.  The poem points out, with very colorful dialogue, a well-known feeling of road rage that happens to many people.  The dialogue made this situation described in the poem seem very real.  The addition of the language barrier with the woman in the accident added to the sense of alienation for me.  I was surprised by the ending with the two women embracing.  This, I believe, illustrates the poet's objective that people should forgive each other for making mistakes and that oftentimes our angry outbursts are the result of fear and apprehension. 

The poignancy felt while reading Ms. McDonough's poem is felt even stronger when reading Harper's "Learning to Read".  This poem, written in the 1870's, is about a sixty-year old black woman who is trying to learn to read.  The speaker in the poem focuses on two main topics: freedom and education.  Harper says, "Knowledge didn't agree with slavery. 'Twould make us all too wise", meaning the whites deliberately kept the slaves from learning to read so they could retain their power over the blacks.  A prominent theme in the poem is that knowledge is power.  The woman in the poem longed to read the Bible because it's words were precious to her.  Despite people around her telling her she was too old to try to learn to read, Chloe did not waste any time and worked very hard until she could read the entire Bible.  The poem ends with the woman describing the little cabin she got, "A place to call my own--and I felt independent'.  This illustrates how the knowledge the woman gained by learning to read ultimately resulted in her becoming completely free and independent.

The upbeat ending of "Learning to Read" is also felt in the poem, "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost.  This poem begins with a drastic contrast between two men who out of neighborliness fix the wall that separates their properties.  They do this rebuilding each spring mostly out of habit and tradition.  The speaker sees no reason for the wall to be kept, there is nothing to be contained, no cows, for instance.  However, his neighbor generally cites the old adage that "good fences make good neighbors".  Frost discusses all the obstacles the two men face in trying to keep the wall in place, even describing their task as Sisyphean.  Despite the obstacles, the men lumber on.  This irony of this poem struck me as almost humorous.  It seems to show that there are two kinds of people in the world:  wall builders and wall breakers. 

Rev. Kolvenbach's discussion in The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, focuses on the Jesuit commitment to faith and justice following Vatican II.  Kolvenbach states that the sort of justice he is referring to requires an "action-oriented commitment" to the poor.  Further, he states that only a "substantive" justice can bring about the kinds of "structural and attitudinal changes" that are needed to uproot those sinful oppressive injustices that are a scandal against humanity and against God.  These injustices are many and Kolvenbach argues that the Jesuits need to be clear in their approach to battle these problems throughout the world.  Problems such as racism and illiteracy as seen in "Learning to Read", immigration issues that are obliquely mentioned in "Accident, Mass Avenue" and the challenge of trying to tear down walls while people habitually build them back up that was discussed in "Mending Walls."

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