In works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, men of science push the boundaries of their practices, and their wives become subject to abusive medical treatments. Such oppression can also be observed in militarized or unstable governments. In the United States, there is an influx of refugees from countries like Syria, Bhutan, Congo, Eritrea who were forced to leave their homes due to persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, or social and political option. I attended training for Refugee Youth Project on Saturday, and as I listened to the stories of refugees, I came to a deeper understanding of the challenges they face when arriving in Baltimore.
"At night in any kind of light…, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be."
I was born into privilege here in the United States and never had to face the kind of fears these refugees have faced. Growing up, I never had to fear that my parents wouldn't return home for work, or that I would not be allowed to attend school, or that my government would imprison my loved ones. I am free to speak my political beliefs, or to drive my car to work. As a child, I was free to daydream and see the world through rose colored glasses, like the speaker in Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." This childhood innocence cannot last forever however, and the magic of every day life faded as I matured.
I began to develop my passions for justice, when the news became real to me. The images of war and violence in other countries were no longer overlooked by my eyes. The moral of Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" teaches that there is no such thing as perfection. The mark of humanity, symbolized by the blood colored hand on Geogiana's cheek, will cause flaws in any system, including the United States.
However, viewing images and videos on the media alone could not fully ignite the flame that burns within to help out. The news often distorts truth and tries to sway their audience in one direction or another. Listening to the stories from perspectives of real people from around the world, including the love of my life, has helped truly open my eyes to the injustice that occurs in many countries across the world. I feel passionate about helping young people who come to this country.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is narrated by a woman who writes in secret, against her prescribed "rest." She is married to a doctor, John, who refuses to acknowledge her mental illness. John infantilizes his wife and refers to her as "little girl" when he catches her creeping around at night. Her husband only pays attention to her physical health and undermines her mental illness. When she says there is something wrong, beyond physical means, he chastises her and she is silent after.
Many people refuse to see a problem, because it is easier to ignore than to face the challenge. In the United States, "nativists" oppose the influx of refugees entering the country. They do not want to deal with the changing demographics of their neighborhoods or have biases. This group is like John in that they are faced with a problem and choose to think that we can improve the country without facing the problem. On the other hand, some people hyper focus on problems, like Aylmer does in "The Birthmark." They support the US intervening in other countries' affairs. It can appear to be helpful, but sometimes it creates dependence.
I believe that the United States has the resources and capacity to offer asylum to refugee populations. Fifty percent of refugees in the world come to the US. They must undergo extensive background checks and tell over and over again their often painful stories, in order to prove they are fleeing persecution. Re-settlement alone includes many barriers that they have to face. Immigrants in the high school I will be volunteering at often are just a face within a crowd. I want to be there as a mentor and also as a friend.