Women finally can hold men accountable for the crimes that they commit. The wake of the #MeToo movement has helped many women, feeling empowered by their fellow survivors, to accuse men of rape, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other gender-based violence. Women have accused men in power, including numerous political figures, of such crimes. However, in history, such action rarely occurred. William Shakespeare’s Othello gives readers a glance into Elizabethan society, especially how it treated women. Men in power abuse the three main female characters in the play, and each of them offers a unique window into how men treated women. Seen in both the current #MeToo movement and in the story of Othello, people prioritize the struggles of rich white women over those of low-income women of color. Desdemona, Bianca, and Emilia all face abuse at the hands of men in their lives. Many people defend Desdemona, a white woman, against the abuse and accusations of Othello. However, Bianca and Emilia face oppression and abuse, yet no one seems to care. These two characters give special insight into the domestic abuse faced by lower-class women and women of color. In Othello, Desdemona, Bianca, and Emilia highlight the differences between the treatment of rich, white women who face abuse and low-income women of color who face abuse, both in Shakespearean times and in the movements in society right now.
Domestic abuse disproportionately affects women of color and lower-class women. Many researchers have concluded that “minority and economically disadvantaged women are disproportionately represented among those most affected [by Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)]” (Schmidt). Bianca and Emilia provide good examples of the way that society treats lower-class women and women of color. In the play, men disregard them, treat them as objects, call them derogatory names, and overall abuse them.
Shakespeare never gives Bianca a physical description, though people commonly interpret Bianca as a woman of color, and black women have played this part. Shakespeare also never fully discloses Bianca’s relationship with Cassio, but they do have a relationship of some sort. Cassio led Bianca on, and then he disappeared without telling her where he went. He returned, told her that he does not love her, and then publicly embarrassed her in front of the other soldiers by calling her a whore and making jokes about her love for him. When people think of domestic abuse, physical violence typically comes to the mind first. However, women also experience another form of domestic abuse: psychological abuse. Some examples of psychological abuse are “threats of physical violence, degrading comments meant to humiliate, and threatening to withhold financial support…” (Kramer). When together, he treats her with love and respect, and he calls her names such as “…my most fair Bianca” and “…sweet love…” (3.4.193-194). However, when with his friends, he calls her a prostitute and laughs at the mention of him marrying her. This is a form of domestic abuse: an example of psychological abuse in which he humiliates her in public.
Similar to Bianca, Emilia also experiences domestic abuse in Othello. As Desdemona’s servant, Emilia belongs to a lower class. Iago, the main villain of the story and Emilia’s husband, repeatedly shows that he does not respect women. Early in the play, he speaks of Desdemona as property when he tells Desdemona’s father that she was stolen: “Thieves, thieves! Look to your house, your daughter and your bags” (1.1.80). He insinuates that Desdemona belongs to her father and that Othello took his property. He continues throughout the play to say incredibly sexist things and boils women down to either smart or dumb and either pretty or ugly. This disrespect and abuse extend to his own wife. Throughout the play, he calls her “a foolish wife,” “a villainous whore,” and “filth” (3.3.308, 5.2.273, 5.2.276). Because of Emilia’s class, she is “… more vulnerable to negative psychological sequelae as a result of IPV” (Schmidt). She will more likely face long-term effects from the abuse that she endures from Iago. Oftentimes, surviving domestic abuse results in PTSD, but the symptoms manifest themselves in women of a lower class more commonly than in upper-class women and with different and harder-to-treat effects. Because low-income women and women of color have unique experiences and barriers as a result of IPV, many researchers agree that “there is a need for an intervention model for treating PTSD and other mental health issues tailored specifically to the needs of low-income women of color” (Schmidt).
The way that IPV and domestic abuse disproportionately affect low-income women of color shines a light on the media coverage of the #MeToo movement. Despite the higher rates of domestic abuse amongst low-income women of color, rich and influential white women make up almost all of the cases that the media covers. People seem to hear the cries of the white women, but silence the voices of the women of color that experience the same problems at a higher rate.
A woman of color herself, Tarana Burke coined the #MeToo movement. She originally started the movement to “provide an outlet for women of color…” (Issitt). However, the media began to only cover white women and left women of color behind. In an interview, Burke explained that the #MeToo movement silenced the voices of black women, and she created a new group to “… come up with new practices that will help get Black survivors ‘believed, heard, and supported’” (Congleton). The new group, called “We, As Ourselves,” aims to include those who felt that the #MeToo movement left them out. The media needs more representation of low-income survivors and survivors of color because all women deserve to tell their story and all women’s struggles with domestic abuse and sexual assault are valid and worth discussing.
Just as the #MeToo movement focuses on the abuse of rich white women, Othello focuses on the abuse of Desdemona. The abuse faced by Desdemona follows more traditional signs of abuse than the other two women in Othello. At the beginning of the play, she and Othello seem deep in love, and they profess their love for each other regularly. However, as Iago begins to poison Othello’s mind with doubt, Othello begins to question his wife. He starts by saying quick remarks to her about what he believes that she has done, but it quickly escalates from there. While all three women faced abuse in many forms, Desdemona endures the clearest. Her husband hits her, publicly calls her derogatory terms, and treats her as no more than his possession. At the end of the play, Othello smothers Desdemona, killing her. All of this occurs without Desdemona standing up for herself, blinded by the love that she has for Othello. However, at least she has other people who stand up for her. Othello horrifies Lodovico when he strikes Desdemona, and he tells Othello to “make her amends. She weeps” (94.1.274). He sees Desdemona’s innocence and fragility and stands up for her to Othello. He also attempts to persuade Othello of Desdemona’s goodness and maintains that he should apologize to her. Also, throughout the story, whenever Othello mentions something about his wife’s presumed unfaithfulness, Emilia always quickly defends Desdemona in front of Othello. Emilia, when questioned about Desdemona’s loyalty, tells Othello that “if she be not honest, chaste, and true, / There’s no man happy” (4.2.19). Even though she experiences a similar problem with Iago and no one stood up for her, she still stands up for Desdemona and does what she can to help.
By no means should anyone invalidate Desdemona’s struggles because of her privileged race or class, but the way that others treat Desdemona differs clearly from the way that people treat Bianca and Emilia surrounding their struggles with abuse. From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare highlights Desdemona’s whiteness as a key part of her identity, and the idea of whiteness, pureness, and innocence follow her throughout the play. Iago gives the very first description of Desdemona in the play by calling her a “white ewe” (1.1.108). This whiteness differentiates the treatment of Desdemona and the treatment of the other women. When Othello kills Desdemona, Emilia displays clear pity for Desdemona because of her race: “O, the more angel she, and you the blacker devil!” (5.2.161). While everyone seems to want justice for Desdemona, with the exception of Iago, no one seems to care when Iago abuses Emilia or when Cassio abuses Bianca. Desdemona’s status and whiteness cause others to feel sympathy for her and want to help her, but no one helps the lower-class women or women of color, just as in the #MeToo movement. And, just as Burke explains in the context of the #MeToo movement, “[poor and black women’s] voices and [their] needs are continually sidelined and ignored” (Congleton).
Although the #MeToo movement began by trying to combat domestic abuse against all women, it quickly became a very mainstream movement. Once this happened, the majority of women who saw justice for the abuse that they experienced were wealthy, white women. Of course, these women have every right to seek justice. However, when women of color and lower-class women experience abuse, fewer people seem to care. The media rarely covers the story of a woman of color who faced abuse because that is not what the public wants to see. Many cases of abuse against women of color and low-income women go unreported because the justice system does not treat those women equally. And, the same goes for Othello. While Shakespeare shines a light on the abuse suffered by Desdemona, he marginalizes the abuse suffered by Bianca and Emilia.
Congleton, Nathan. “Left out of MeToo: New Initiative Focuses on Black Survivors.” NBC News, NBC Universal, 25 feb 2021, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/left-out-metoo-new-initiative-focuses-black-survivors-n1258846. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
Galano, Maria M., et al. “Dyadic Profiles of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Mothers and Children Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence.” Child Psychiatry & Human Development, vol. 51, no. 6, Dec. 2020, pp. 943–955. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10578-020-00973-y.
Hardwick, Julie. “Early Modern Perspectives on the Long History of Domestic Violence: The Case of Seventeenth‐Century France.” The Journal of Modern History, vol. 78, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1–36. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/499793. Accessed 26 Mar. 2021.
Ioana Dana Schmidt. “Addressing PTSD in Low-Income Victims of Intimate Partner Violence: Moving toward a Comprehensive Intervention.” Social Work, vol. 59, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 253–260. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.24881574&site=eds-live.
Issitt, Micah L. “Me Too Sexual Misconduct Movement.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2020. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=132204393&site=eds-live.
Kramer, Liz, and Laura Finley. “Domestic Violence: An Overview.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2019. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89158162&site=eds-live.
Piotrowski, Nancy A., PhD, and Lillian M. Range PhD. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Magill’s Medical Guide (Online Edition), 2020. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=86194496&site=eds-live.
Shakespeare, William, et al. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Updated edition. ed., New York, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2017.
Running down a slope two lads could be seen from the scope held by Captain Rindheld. Trousers and shirt sleeves rolled at the elbows, grass stains sure to be visible with closer inspections. The older of the two, Bill, had most resemblance to his father with curling mahogany hair, thin brows and olive skin; he only gained his fair jaw and hazel eyes from his mother. Captain Rindheld shook his head at his boy’s actions, as he laughed aboard his sloop, the MHS-Doveless. The Captain’s laughter increased when a certain child of his tripped on something and started rolling faster than his running elder sibling. William Rindheld, the younger son of the captain with his mothers soot black hair with grainy dark skin was a poor lad in the eyes of Rindheld’s crew, as they had known him since he was a babe. His skin was still burnt darker than his parents, even after so long. As the MHS- Doveless came to port only the elder Rindheld was there to greet the sealogged crew.
“Father I am glad you have returned home safely, how are you? What of your travels- did you fight?” Captain Rindheld took off his elder son’s cap and ruffled the lads greasy head.
“I have much to tell my son but must first finish business.” replied Bill’s father. He glanced to his youngest still slumped on the ground not far from the docks.
“Billy go help Will get up will you, seems he lost his cap in that near tree.”
“Yes sir,” Bill replied to his father “Will stop flailing, I’m coming to help!”
“Then help me brother!” cried out William
“I didn’t rip my clothes on the way down did I Bill?” asked Will.
“No Mothers not going to hound you,” replied Bill.
“That did not answer my question.” William retorted.
“My answer was fine,” bickered Bill handing over his brother’s hat.
“Brother are you getting too warm again,” Bill voiced in concern seeing the amount of sweat accumulating on his brothers brow, ”We could wait for father under the shade.”
William wipes his forehead with his coat.
“ Use a handkerchief.” Bill scolded. Taking his own cloth, Bill grabs the arm Will is using and forcefully wipes his brother’s forehead.
“You’re acting like a mother Bill, stop,” Will whined.
“Would not have to do so if you would use a handkerchief.” return fired Bill.
“Well I would not be needing to use one if mother stopped insisting I wear long sleeves!” remarked William.
“You would wear long sleeves on a vessel ship in the Royal Navy regardless of seasons, or mother.”
“Oh,” William paused momentarily out of words,” You’re right Bill.”
“William, Bill, come now. The both of you,” Captain Rindheld called to his sons.
“ Yes father, coming,” both William and his brother Bill said in unison, before giggling and running out of the shadows cast by the tree near the harbor to a carriage.
“Hello little reader, Endela here. This is the story and is definitely not real. starring a reader, not that big in height or reading but they try. Jaiden Fortis is their name, kind, average, perfect for messing with, and asleep. You readers are all rolling your eyes as you think you know my big plan. Fine, you’re right to do so, I’m about to send a young adult to another world. You aren’t sighing are you? I guess that’s a usual reaction in this 21st century, never the first it seems.. Oh well you’re still reading, and haven’t stopped reading meaning you’re ok with what’s coming. What, you thought I wouldn’t need your permission to keep going? People these days can’t ‘take it out of the box’. Fine, be that way, I’m going on with the story.“
From the perspective, below from the character- that being Endela- a bed aglow with the shining moon sleeps Jaiden. A halo of dirty blond hair dripping down Jaidens neck with dark lashes of three, maybe four centimeters,and eyes the color of resin encased tree bark- blissfully unaware of the being smiling miscellaneous. Endela’s form consisted of seemingly endless charcoal black hair adorned with gold chains; held up by an amethyst colored silk veil, covering all but the chin on their face. They slinked from the air to Jaiden’s side; a shadow that cut off the moonlights embrace. And with their right index finger, long and ruby red, they tap Jaidens forehead a single time. They whisper their words as Jaiden is taken to where they would not know.
“What waits on the other side of a moon that glows? What worlds when changed bring to you fate that was late? Little white pearl, a new moon you meet so fortis can see.”
“I feel like I forgot to do something,” thought Endela who thinks for a minute before they snap their fingers,” Oh yeah… woops, welp nothing I can do about it.”
Little by little do I see,
The shaking of the changing trees,
Blushing in the changing wind
To shed their cloaks and shiver
In the endless shadow of creeping winter.
The wind whose soft fingers touch,
The rising smoke from shuttered hut,
Begins to chill the noonday light,
And changes to the world’s dismay
The fields green to brown and bruised grey.
Liminal to hearts delight,
When against the pale grey sky,
How the world is set ablaze
By the quilt of red and green
Set over the woven, sleeping trees.
Down the river’s gentle bend,
Through meadow, hill, and town again,
Turns from mellow sun-soaked shape,
Reeling from autumn’s cool breath
to churning, piercing, icy depth.
And over the scene of a moment’s fruition,
Jagged lines of geese sail the plain blue ocean,
Racing through the empty sky,
Off to gather in greener lands
Fleeing winter’s looming demands.
Upon the hill a lone tree stands,
With years of wisdom in gnarled hands,
The last of its brothers it rests alone,
And greets with knowing resignation
The changing of the coming season.
Over the world the spell is cast,
Perfecting moments lost too fast,
Sowing seeds of changing time,
Announcing with bold triumphant greeting
The coming of the Darker Season.
Cold and Darkness: forces which since the beginning have gnawed at the edges of human existence, standing adversely to man’s world. In Darkness and in Cold life is leached from man, yet he is cursed to yearn for that which he must not have. It calls. To the wicked and the kind, it calls the same. In dreams I heard it calling. I too felt the pull, more primal than thought, more ancient than mankind.
It was greyest January when it struck. Coming as the ancient rites of the yuletide season faded, leaving a stained and soiled world. When the featureless, masking grey sky smothers the land, bruising its hardened form, man cannot but feel the presence of natures deeper than understanding. When the mirth of the holidays no longer masked the season and joy no longer lingered on the icy whispers of the wind, I first beheld the abhorrent sight.
It was during this time that I was living alone, having recently inherited the small yet stately home nestled at the edge of the forest. The home had belonged to my uncle, whose presence in the town had been one of note until his disappearance from the home some years before my arrival. The constant renovations and upkeep associated with maintaining such an aged and so long abandoned home kept me continually occupied. Recently returned from the war in Europe, I had spent the past few months going about setting up new prospects for myself, yet I failed to become truly excited about my options. In truth, as I passed hours at the large windows at the rear of my home, staring at the quivering naked trees italicizing in the winter wind, I began feeling a sense of cold that I could never quite shake.
It came in a dream. Long had I felt that primal pull; and now, I saw. In an instant the fog of slumbering dreams was gone. One still, crystal clear image burned into my now open eyes. It was a pool of water, not eight feet in diameter, in the midst of a dark forest. Snow clung sparsely about the bases of the wretchedly dark trees of the eerily still wood. The trees at its edge wound their knuckle-like roots round its sinister black bank, clinging to the silent disk of liquid. The pool’s mortuously black, reflective body showed only the form of a large skeletal moon, watching, waiting, contemplating high, yet seemingly not high enough, in the sky. The image bathed me in cold. I awoke with startling suddenness, free at last from the dream’s spell, yet for a time I was unable to move. In the dark I fancied I could see my own breath rising in misty plumes above me.
Dreams such as this continued to haunt me night after night. Always ending with the startlingly clear vision of the pool. Try as I might I could not free myself from the visions, and every night I awoke upon seeing it, shocked anew. The vision went on for some time, but now I heard the call. It was not in a language I knew, nor in any form of communication which I can utter even a syllable, yet it was clear to me. It told me to rise. It told me to follow. It told me to come.
The darkness was nearly complete as I rose smoothly from my bed. At that moment I thought of nothing—felt nothing. I listened only to the call. The moon bathed me in grey light as I stroad out the door, the portal gaping widely open behind me. The wind whipped around me as I strode steadily into the shadowed woods, feeling nothing, thinking of nothing as the voice beckoned me onward. I do not know how far I went in this state, just that suddenly everything was still. I was free from my trance. I no longer needed guidance, I knew what lay ahead. The cold bit me to my core, seeming to render me transparent in that bleak world. The silence was complete, broken only by my footsteps, whose dull steps on the frozen earth seemed to line perfectly with my own beating heart.
Suddenly, there it was, the scene exactly as in my visions. I gazed, transfixed on that dead pool, whose unbroken surface lay waiting. It’s remarkably unfrozen body sent a tremor down my spine as I pondered the thoughtless cold its depths must hold. Stooping over it, I found no reflection of my own on its surface, only the sterile shape of the moon, whose figure now seemed peculiarly sharp and brittle, as if it were merely two-dimensional. I gazed plainly up at its dead celestial form, then without hesitation, I plunged headfirst into the center of the pool. Then I was falling through the night sky, high above a quiet earth, watched by only the moon’s mocking face above.
Life isn’t supposed to move this fast.
It should ebb and flow
Lumbering slowly up
To slosh against the wall and recede again
Life isn’t supposed to move this fast.
It shouldn’t rise up so sharp
It shouldn’t push so hard
It shouldn’t erupt so violently
It should be peaceful.
Life isn’t supposed to move this fast.
I should see it coming,
Far at the horizon as it glides past
Gentle breeze on my sails.
Life isn’t supposed to move this fast.
It shouldn’t become stacked
Teetering before it tips,
Life isn’t supposed to move this fast.
Pounding like water
Breaking your faucet
Flooding the sink
And before you know it
You’ve lost it.
Life isn’t supposed to stand still.
It isn’t supposed to halt for a grinding,
before it falls through the floor.
It shouldn’t ache
It shouldn’t bruise
It shouldn’t burn
It shouldn’t shake
But it does.
I laid there on the couch, predicting and planning out what was going to happen. I was going to go to high school after two years of waiting. There were going to be hundreds of people-just like me-desperate for the life other kids were blessed with.
The door beeped open for my roommate, Tessa, so she could step into our complex with the package. Jealousy never got anyone far, but I couldn’t help it when it came to her. Tessa had beautiful, long hair that went half way down her back. It always swayed back and forth whenever she walked, just like it was now. My roommate held a large box with a special royal blue sticker on it.
I bolted upright, “Did it come?”
“Sure as hell did, Amazon really saved my ass with that one-day delivery,” Tessa muttered.
I ran to the box to see the sticker in closer detail. It was navy blue with a golden bangle on it. Tearing it open revealed the clothing. It was perfect. The white button-down shirt had nice diagonal striped sleeves that perfectly matched the skirt. There even was a small golden bangle embroidered onto the coat.
“They are a work of art!” I smiled, as I started to hug the soft material closely to my chest and laid back onto the couch.
Tessa replied with a distracted “uh-huh”. But, then she looked me straight in the eye with a rarely lit-up face.
“I almost forgot! I got you a little surprise! You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get this for you, but, I remember you saying this was your favorite movie as a kid.”
She then pulled from behind her back a cracked and torn CD protector. On the CD it had cursive writing spelling out “Rosa”.
“Tessa!” I freaked out, “That’s illegal! Put that away!”
She laughed and ran to the family room’s CD player. The girl was too fast for me, so I decided to let it past, only this once. I sat down on the couch as the movie opened with a familiar Disney-like tune. Tessa plopped down right next to me and smiled, “Yes, I know, you’re welcome.”
I laughed, “Thanks Tessa, I owe you one.”
She held her hand out and placed her index finger on my mouth, “Now shut up, I gotta see why the government banned this one too.”
We sat there in silence in the soft blanket. The movie started by showing her. It was Rosa. The girl I had always wanted to grow up to be. Rosa created peace between the people and the citizens unfortunate enough to be born with poisoned blood. This blood rarely granted humans inhuman abilities. The blood that Tessa and I, and everyone transported to Russia contained in their system. My mind wandered to the nights I would curl up with my mom and dad, naive to the system the government had put in place. I had been completely oblivious to how real the movie really was. I missed those days when it was even legal for me to go to regular school, and talk to my friends and family, before the government had divided us.
I continued to stare at the movie screen, nostalgia spreading through my chest. It was cold not cuddling my parents. This world was way darker than it was in Rosa’s, but I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of hope as I saw Rosa kick another bad guy to the side. A feeling of hope made me think about a world just like hers.
In the final scene, Rosa held her lover in her arms, kissed them goodbye, and at that, she sacrificed herself to banish the bad guy from their Utopia. Of course, it being a kid’s movie, she survived and helped establish a peaceful society so people like me and normal citizens could live together.
As the end credits started to roll onto the screen, Tessa shut it off and sighed, “I really wish the government wouldn’t be so salty about a cartoon character running a more logical system than he ever could.”
I laughed, “I mean you aren’t wrong.”
Tessa leaned over and looked me in the eye with a rare expression of concern. It had occurred to me that my eyes were filled with tears, and they were falling off of my face.
“I guess I just really miss my parents… sorry about that,” I muttered, wiping them furiously.
“Don’t be, it’s chill,” Tessa responded.
I smiled, my roommate wasn’t the nicest person in the whole world in other people’s eyes, but she was to me. She only let a few people into her life, and knowing that she let me into her small circle always put a grin on my face. Tessa did whatever she could to make sure I wasn’t hungry, upset, or stressed. I wrapped my arms around her and buried my face into her shoulder. It was nice hugging someone after two years. Two whole years.
“Can I just stay here for a moment?” I asked.
“Yeah, I don’t care,” she reassured.
The bright light shined through the thin curtains as I laid there on my side looking at my alarm clock. I noticed that my roommate had tucked me into my sheets delicately from the night before.
Something in the pit of my stomach felt off, but I ignored it and tried to organize my thoughts. Think Kira, think! The smell of something burning straightened my mind just enough to remember that it was the first day of school.
“Kira! Get your toast already!” Tessa yelled from across the apartment room.
I grabbed the piece of burned toast. Usually, I would grin and bear the wretched taste but my stomach was already queasy.
“I’m really sorry, I’m not hungry.” The charred toast crumbs fell onto the plate.
“Well don’t blame me if you starve on your first day!” she retorted.
Tessa left the house with the door wide open as usual. I would normally yell at her, but instead I looked at the doorway out in awe. I rarely left the house, due to strict regulations on times certain “citizens” could exit and enter their homes. My roommate was allowed out nearly every other day for some reason she never explained.
I tore off my shirt and pants quickly. The skirt slipped up and zipped perfectly while the buttoned up blouse felt a little stiff. I barely even noticed, because next thing I knew Tessa was slamming on the horn for me to hurry up. I strained my eyes to look outside, with the reflective white snow not helping in the slightest. The wind blew into my face bitterly as my foot took a single step outside. It was something my fourteen year old self took for granted, being able to walk out of a building whenever. I shook my head, trying to remind myself that thanks to the new school, I would be able to go outside everyday.
I shut the shotgun’s door behind me to prepare for a drive.
“I don’t really get how you liked that movie so much as a kid,” my roommate said with her hand on the steering wheel.
I laughed, “I just really like the idea of peace.”
She looked behind her and backed up, adjusting the car’s driving mode.
There was more silence as my mind began to fill my head with worries about classmates, classes, and how to meet new people. And what if-
“You know we can make Rosa a reality?” Tessa interrupted.
“Y’know if we just overthrew the government or something.”
I stopped looking at the plain repetitive scenery to look at her face. After two years of knowing her, Tessa was really hard to read. And sure, overthrowing the government did sound nice but our powers would be useless if our wristbands were kept on our wrists. Even if we managed to get them off, alarms would blair and the “professionals” would have to deal with the ordeal.
“I’m not going to give you any ideas…” I muttered.
Her eyes met mine for a brief second from the car mirror, “That’s fair, but I already have a plan.”
“Tessa… not another plan of yours, I always take the blame for them while you get away untouched.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t be involved at all. And, even if I got caught, the school would be too afraid to do anything to me. Plus, I bet you’re just too obsessed with your father’s old position.”
I sat there quietly. She knew I didn’t like talking about myh dad. My roommate would only bring him up if she was really serious about this plan of hers. She must’ve been desperate for this dumb thing to work. But, if I pushed her she wouldn’t spill anymore.
I turned back to the window to see the plain scenery change dramatically. The blindly white snow had been replaced with artificial-looking flowers that were colored royal blue and a bright yellow. Our car raced past a big sign reading “Welcome to the Lucky Black Cat Academy.”
It’s just a feeling,
The loss of what used to be.
The hardest love is healing
The plaster on the ceiling, peeling
As you wait for your heart to breathe,
It’s just a feeling.
The moment when your heart stops beating
There’s always a door to leave.
But the hardest love is healing
Yet on the night the dawn is creeping, reeling
The darkness finds relief.
Change makes its own feelings
Then run in the meadow, singing
The bright light isn’t hard to see.
It’s just a feeling
Live a day free of meaning,
Color a life that’s turned to grey
It may be strong but It’s just a feeling,
The hardest love is healing
History is vice. Suffering, murder, rape; history tells a tale of human darkness and depravity. At the same time, history is romance. Happiness, bravery, and love all hold leading roles in this play. Sometimes, violence and killing show man’s power, as with Napoleon; other times however, it shows man’s weakness, as with Hitler. Debauchery and love can mean nothing, or everything, depending on one’s vantage point. This dissonance and frequent contradiction may dissuade people from studying the subject, for fear that they will never unravel an enlightening Marx-style ‘truth,’ that they will waste away at a desk, staring at this majestic web of irony and illogic: history. They are right: as long as humans continue to exist, we will never discover a meaningful understanding of our purpose, and it is very likely that, if they choose to study history, they will sit paralyzed at a desk all day, in awe of the limitless tapestry before them. In fact, they will almost certainly live in madness and delirium. However, this suffering will only arrive once they recognize what history is: our state of perception.
How, you ask? Well, we define history as the past. We also live in the past. Our sensory perception is a time-bound process; nerve signals take some defined length of time to travel from receptor to brain. Thus, when we touch something, there is a lag between when we actually touch it and when our brain receives that sensory information and creates the perceptual experience we call “touching.” Although we may be in the present, we can’t perceive it. Thus, by our perception, we live in history. Although we may live only a femtosecond away from the present, that detachment from our own existence, our state of being, philosophically accomplishes a great deal. Most importantly, this revelation that we perceive our life as it’s already occurred places us closer to those historical figures that previously were sectioned off from us. We perceive our life in the past, and so did every human, ever. Rather than separating ourselves from history by living in the “present” we now recognize the fact that we are living in the same history textbook as Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and that group of cossacks from 1562. Therefore, history binds us all.
If history serves as our “state of perception,” and if perception is subjective, then how can we study history objectively? Well, we can’t. Howard Zinn, a renowned historian, states in an interview that “history is always a selection from an infinite number of facts and everybody makes the selection differently, based on their values and what they think is important” (Zinn). Not only do we select from an “infinite number of facts,” we also create them ourselves, through language (Zinn). For example, let’s posit one writes about Paul Revere’s ride. Describing his alert to the townspeople as a “shriek” versus a “yell” presents two different images for the reader, depending on their personal associations with those words. Thus, studying history is a balancing act of imagining scenes or even societies given descriptions, yet restraining that imagination with an inherent linguistic skepticism of those descriptions. The skepticism reaches beyond language’s natural obscurities however; when examining a source one must gaze into the life of the person writing it. Is there any reason this person would consciously lie? Or even omit certain truths? Given their position in society, would this person’s truth even be credible? The answers to all of these questions lie in the historian, and their own biases. Therefore, history is a subjective enterprise, and given its definition as our “state of perception,” both neurologically and philosophically, this logically computes.
Thus, how does history inspire madness in the individual? Well, it’s infinite, basically subjective, and a ‘true’ understanding of it is incompletable. For many, this freedom of belief and interpretation constitutes a seemingly mad situation. Of course, others revel in this subjectivity. However, history, unlike a creative discipline such as writing, sets boundaries on this freedom; loose as they are, they dictate that whatever one notes as history must have actually happened. Most of the time what happened is up for reasoned debate. Thus, claims that posit Columbus’ vessel to the Americas as a unicorn in search of rainbow goo disintegrate under their unreasonableness, to the dismay of the Bronies. Therefore, the limits on historical interpretation collapse the psyche and imagination of those comfortable with absolute intellectual freedom, and induce a sort of madness in them as well.
History is our “state of perception”; it is everything we perceive, in every society and period in time: essentially, life. Furthermore, something or nothing programmed our minds with a capacity to reason; if we study history, this capacity will frequently face abuse, and a sort of madness will illuminate itself. Therefore, if this madness is a symptom of history, then it must be of life as well. As humans, we work to understand life. Thus, even if we never truly absorb or defeat this madness, this incongruity between reason and humanity, this ubiquitous fact of our being, we must never desist from the pursuit of understanding its mother, history, and, synonymously, life.
Zinn, Howard. Interview. Conducted by Barbara Miner, 1994. https://www.zinnedproject.org/why/why-students-should-study-history/