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InLight Festival @ Chimborazo Park Nov. 15/16

Last weekend I went to the InLight light festival at Chimborazo park in the Churchill neighborhood downtown Richmond. Despite my prior ideas upon first reading the event, the shows did not consist of lasers and crazy light shows/short films. The InLight festival was founded in 2008 and continues to be run by 1708 Gallery. This free event featured, performances, sculptures, videos, and interactive projects which illuminated pathways, walls, sidewalks, etc. 

The projects displayed this year highlighted the social and geographic history of Chimbarzoo park, which had previously been grounds for a Confederate military hospital during the Civil War. 1708 Gallery looked for artists to display their artistically interpretation respond and elaborate on the complex racial history. Personally my favorite exhibit was a short film using clips from different sports events and post-game interviews. A clip of Arthur Ashe particularly caught my eye as I have taken a class with professor Ashe here at Richmond and recognized the name. 

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The Internet as a Weapon

During his talk, “The Internet as a Weapon,” Yasha Levine, a Russian-American investigative journalist and author, discussed how the internet and technology has evolved into an extremely powerful weapon. Levine is a Soviet immigrant who grew up in San Francisco, California. In San Francisco, Levine was taught that technology would solve all problems in the world- inequality, corruption, etc. He was taught that the internet would hold people accountable because of its transparency. His image of America, being an immigrant, became inseparable with the promise of technological revolution. 

While technology has taken over, it has been turned into a weapon in ways many would not imagine. After it was able to throw the 2016 election, people have increasingly feared how the internet can be such a powerful weapon of influence. Social media can track out every move and it is connected with American security. Additionally, the technology has the ability to predict conflict, war, etc. Technology is constantly evolving and progressive and if people don’t keep it in check it can become a dangerous part of this time period.

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Culture Event: UD Cross Currents

This past Saturday I went to the University Dancers performance, which was in collaboration with a professional dance company as a part of the Tucker Boatwright Festival of the Arts. I attended this event because my friend Bella was a performer in it. The event was outside in front of the American Civil War Historic Tredegar Museum. It was about the James River and the history around that area. The performance consisted of dancers as well as a poet. She spoke about the scenery of the James River as well as common Richmond experiences. During the middle of the show, the music was unexpectedly cut off due to a technical difficulty with the music. The show started up again after the speakers were replaced. The University Dancers had sections of their own as well as a final piece with the professional dancer.

I really liked the choreography and I was honestly impressed that the dancers were able to dance in the cold weather. The audience was served tea to keep warm. There was one dancer that was standing alone in the cold when the speakers blew for 10 minutes before they told her she could go backstage. I was honestly freezing myself so I can’t imagine how she felt. Overall however, I really enjoyed the performance and was glad that I waited in the cold for it.

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The Slow Fight for Justice

This week’s readings on the history of Native American activism was very interesting to me because it related to my topic for a paper I am writing in Ethics. In my ethics class I am discussing the morality of colonialism, specifically the immorality and which parts of colonialism violated others’ liberties. But beyond that, I found this reading interesting because it brought to light an issue that isn’t often discussed. The fact is, the treatment of Native Americans by European colonists and later Americans is often buried and forgotten. People still celebrate holidays like Columbus Day and hold it up to a mythical standard as if it was a great discovery. Rather, they should be celebrating a day dedicated to remember all those indigenous cultures that were eradicated for the sake of aggressive expansion.

With all the atrocities in the history of American treatment of Native Americans, it at least brings me some consolation that the descendants of these victims haven’t forgotten by a long shot. Their voices are still being heard in an attempt to maintain what little freedoms they have been guaranteed. On too many occasions the government opts to support business expansion instead of supporting treaties they have made towards Native reservations. While today more and more people are discussing these issues, there is still a long way to go before we are ever doing them any justice.

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Native American Activism

When we think about social justice and activism in the twentieth century, I doubt that Native American activism would be the first thing to pop up in anyone’s mind. If someone were to ask me to give examples of activism and social justice in the twentieth century, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement come to mind much more easily. While both women and African Americans have faced horrible injustices in the United States, neither group has been subjugated to as much abuse as the Native Americans. Native Americans were facing horrible injustices before the United States even came to be, and the article on Native American activism outlines Native American’s efforts to find justice in the United States.

I had known about almost none of the events highlighted in the article. When I learned about activism and social justice when I was in school, though, I was taught about countless different events that shaped both the movement and the United States as a whole (i.e., The Seneca Falls Convention, “I Have a Dream,” Rosa Parks). When it comes to Native Americans and the struggles that that group of Americans has had to endure, I cannot remember a single event that I learned about in school regarding their path to social justice. I think that this says a lot about the ways in which Native Americans and their history are treated in today’s culture. These people have faced countless instances of appropriation and people trying to erase their history. After reading this article, I have learned just how relevant and important they are in conversations about activism and social justice.

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Handmaid’s Tale: Judge with context

The last section of Handmaid’s Tale made me think that, as a society, as all as it may seem, we are never that far from some radical idea being put into place. In the back of most people’s minds are thoughts about what to do if everything goes to shit. Gilead, seems to be an example of a place which existed because of its strict rules in order to preserve life in some form.  It is easy to judge Gilead’s oppression without taking in consideration its context in history. Despite its controversial manner of operation, this seems to be a white christian tribes way of establishing population longevity during a time when their own numbers were dwindling. 

(Back to Book) I wanted to highlight the glimpse of hope we get at the end of the book.  Although Offred was to be punished, their is a possibility that Nick helped her escape her surroundings to a free place. Throughout the novel we are exposed to more people existing secretly in opposition to the republic of Gilead. By the end, it becomes believable that there is an underground railroad out of such a community. This leads me to think that Atwood, despite her continuous dystopian scenery, injected an idea of human beauty and hope in any rotten implemented society. 

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The End of Handmaid’s Tale

After the scene of Offred’s “escape” (for better or for worse), I was feeling a little better about her story. In the sense that I thought to myself, “At least she got out.” Despite having not really cared much for Nick before the end of the book, it was a surprise to me that he called in people to help her at the end (or at least that seems to be the consensus of what happened).

That aside, the part that I have the most strong feelings about is actual the historical notes section. I just couldn’t stand the fact that she went out of her way, maybe even risking her life to do so, to record her story and then these guys find it and instead of treating her story like something worth hearing, they complain about how she didn’t give more details about the men involved in her story. They give a lecture not on the actual “document” (because they hesitate to even call it that) but on the speculation of who the Commander might have been and the impactful things the two men they narrowed it down to did for Gileadean society. What bothers me most about it is that previously in the story Offred talks about how “family portraits” were taken, but they never included the handmaids, which meant that in the future when someone looks back on their history, the handmaids will have been erased from it, forgotten. She tries so hard to make sure that doesn’t happen by telling her own story. She tells us it’s a story she doesn’t want to tell, but she does it anyway, because she knows how important it is. All of that, and these two dudes find her story just to talk over it and erase it anyway. Man, it was so disheatening.

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Final Chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale

The most interesting part of this final section of the novel for me was the “Historical Notes,” where professors discuss and analyze Gilead far in the future. It was interesting to me that the professor speaking warns the audience not to judge the people of this time period too harshly. The people of Gilead were struggling with many different issues, and although the system they put in place was inhumane and corrupt, they were doing what they felt was a last resort or the only option to fix their failing society. Those who put this power structure in place lacked the knowledge to find a better alternative, and those that went along with it lacked the power or ability to do anything else or resist. 

I think this is very applicable to how we look at history today. Although we should be looking back at history to learn from it to not repeat the mistakes of the past, people tend to judge what are now considered to be the “bad” parts of history. Placing too much judgement on the actions of some in the past does not progress society further, nor is it completely justified. People do what they believe is the best option at the time given the knowledge available to them, or they follow along with what others tell them to do due to a lack of power or ability to do anything else. This is not to their own fault completely, just as it is not the fault of the people of Gilead. 

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Artistic Choices Across Mediums

Due to a lengthy road trip this past weekend, I chose to complete the remainder of The Handmaid’s Tale by audiobook. While it would be easy to take the vocal retelling of Atwood’s novel ar face value, I found out later that the audiobook version from Audible expanded the original in the Historical Notes. When Professor Pieixoto concludes with “are there any questions?” in the written version, the extended audiobook chose to include “questions and answers that I think the people at that symposium, occurring in 2195, might ask,” such as why the chapters were arranged in the order they were put in and why seven of the fifteen chapters were titled “Night.” While I was skeptical of this choice when I initially learned about this change, I have come to realize that this might be a better representation of Atwood’s initial story. Afterall, Offred’s story was recorded, not written, and that easily gets lost when read like a book. Similarly, even the Historical Notes are a voice, and in the same way that Offred chooses to leave out details and even admits her struggle to recall al events properly, the artistic choice to add a Q&A session parallels the importance of taking Offred’s accounts with a grain of salt.

In this version of the Historical Notes, Professor Pieixoto explains that he structured The Handmaid’s Tale chronologically to the best of his ability due to the seemingly random order the original tapes were left in. This has led me to wonder why Offred chose to recount her experiences vocally. Other than the purpose of preserving and safeguarding her story behind music, perhaps Gilead took a larger tole on her than originally thought, leading her to lack the ability or confidence in her own writing. I also found it interesting that the Hulu series of the Handmaid’s Tale chose to present Offred’s story in a different order. It seems that many different versions of the original story can be presented in many different ways. This connects perfectly to our previous discussion on sempiternity because not only does Offred’s story seem early similar to many other events throughout history when shown through the historical context of the symposium but even her own account seems to lack a coherent order from start to finish.

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Ch. XIII – Novel’s End

This final section of The Handmaid’s Tale leaves readers with a lot of unanswered questions. Chapter 40 begins with an unreliable account from Offred regarding her interactions with Nick. As we have discussed in reference to many of the works we’ve read this semester, individuals choose to reconfigure memories in order to cope with them. In reference to her encounters with Nick, Offred notes that “I made that up. It didn’t happen that way” (261). This uncertainty feeds into the ambivalence of the novel’s final scene.

A blog post about this final section would be incomplete without mentioning the scene where Serena Joy confronts Offred. Serena Joy summons Offred to reveal that she found her winter cloak with lipstick on it and the sequin purple costume. Serena Joy is clearly disgusted with Offred; however, I suspect that these feelings stem from the fact that Offred has a relationship with the Commander that deviates from the purpose of her role as a handmaid, bearing a child.

The novel ends with Offred waiting in her room to find out her punishment from Serena Joy. As she brainstorms potential ways to escape her penalty, the Eye’s black van arrives at the house. Nick enters her room to tell her not to worry as the members of the Eye who are here to take her are apart of Mayday. Serena Joy and the Commander do not understand what Offred has done. This confusion reveals that they were not the individuals who called the Eyes. The Eyes declare that they do not need a warrant due to “violation of state secrets.” This ominous ending relates to both Offred’s relationships with both Nick and the Commander. I can’t help but wonder what Offred’s relationship with Nick was truly like, and if that influenced the novel’s final scene. I might have to read the sequel as I am extremely curious as to what happens to Offred.

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