On Thursday, September 15, I attended a Literature event named, Writers at Work with readings from Terre Ryan and Ron Tanner. Terre Ryan gave a presentation on her trip along the Nevada Blast sight. She spoke about her childhood as a ‘Cold War Kid’ and how the possible threat of having an atomic bomb dropped on her small hometown shaped the memories of her upbringing. Ron Tanner described a similar trip, recalling memories from a period when he lived on a small Island in the Marshall Islands named Kwajalein. This is Island is a little known military base. During Witi Ihimaera’s novel The Whale Rider, the reader learns about environmental tests and their effect on the ecosystems on the Maroi tribe. The tribe has many traditions that seem inconceivable to everyday folk. Ihimaera is able to use religion as a basis to relate to her audience. The connections that Terre Ryan made were clearer in relation to The Whale Rider and the other works that we have read because of her use of religion. The use of religion as a common ground aided Terre Ryan, and Witi Ihimaera in relating to their audience on difficult subjects to understand. Religion and our beliefs prove to be very universal which is a reason that these beliefs are so closely tied to our Jesuit values.
In Terre Ryan’s discussion and reading, she spoke about the parallel between the first atomic bomb that was dropped and Jesus Christ. Her insight into her childhood was most influential. She struggled to accurately describe the fear and acceptance she felt while growing up in a town with an atomic bomb research facility, leaving her and her family as a viable target. Dr. Ryan is able to affectively use this idea as a comparison to something that has been long awaited. The coming of Christ, branches across generations, religions, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds in order to bring people together. As Dr. Ryan was speaking, she claimed that the reincarnation of Christ gave Christians a similar kind of feeling that the first atomic bomb gave ‘Cold War Kids’. It gave them a sense of peace in knowing that it had happened. The anticipation had been growing and now, finally, they knew what it would be like. She again used religion to describe her ideas saying, ‘our nation imagined ourselves as Christian and War as holy’ as well as, ‘Beware the house of war, when war is understood to be the house of God’. These ideas showed how the amount Christians thought about God was similar to the amount ‘Cold War Kids’ thought about war.
Witi Ihimaera provides a parallel with Christianity in order to help the reader understand the significance of Kahu. Ihimaera compares Kahu to the second coming, Jesus Christ. This helps the everyday reader comprehend the value of the Maori culture from the inside. Christianity is a widely accepted religion and has deep roots in people from different generations, religions, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds. This makes it the perfect tool to unite a community of readers into the same mindset that Ihimaera is trying to capture. Both Ihimaera and Ryan use the idea of the savoir, Jesus Christ, as their line of comparison. Perhaps this is because even the least devout Christian will still understand the reference, or because the idea of having somebody so important and influential to a culture seems far fetched.
In Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, we find even more parallels to Jesus and the reading exemplifies the importance of having a Jesuit education. The name Jesuit came from a group who defined themselves as the Society of Jesus. This idea once again reminded us of the emphasis put on Jesus. Without this Jesuit education and the idea of needing to educate the whole body, one may have not understood or not picked up on the connections between The Whale Rider and the speeches given by Terre Ryan and Ron Tanner. Not understanding these concepts may have lead to not understanding very important aspects of the Maori Tribe or growing up as a ‘Cold War Kid’.