If peacetime can be compared to light, then surely war embodies darkness. Sacco’s acute attention to detail in Safe Area Gorazde illuminates the light-dark distinction, shedding light on the enduring, innovative nature of humanity. The mini-centrale’s depicted on page 48 directly contrasts “the deep dark” described at the top of the page. Despite the suffocating, total darkness of war, the people of Gorazde continued to innovate and survive; living off what was available and bringing light into an altogether dark world. Despite the totality of wartime, some light always shines through, and in the case of Gorazde, that light came from creative contraptions known as “mini-centrales”, devices fashioned out of a hodgepodge of materials that generated electricity from the river. Not only did the ingenuity of the mini-centrales fascinate me, the juxtaposition between man’s ability to destroy and kill with man’s ability to create and survive furthered my appreciation of Sacco’s subtle message of hope in the face of despair.
Man’s ability to use creativity and intelligence for survival is revealed by the presence of a walkway underneath the bridge in the same illustration. Referred to earlier in the work, the hidden pathways built underneath town bridges allowed civilians to travel safely across the river. In the shadow of the bridge underneath the chaos and darkness of the outside world, these walkways allowed safe travel as well as being the primary docking point for many of the generators, intertwining the two creations in a web of ingenuity. Through the power of man to create, be it freedom of movement in a hostile environment or the ingenuity in totally utilizing the bare resources at hand, a powerful message of hope and light can be drawn from both generators, walkways, and an altogether desperate narrative.
A reoccurring theme in Sitt Marie Rose that I found to be profound is the idea of the loss of meaning of war. Yes, we can still recall why we initially went to war, but that reasoning is lost once actually engaged in the act. Mounir can strongly identify with this sentiment. “He was fighting—that was all there was to it. For what? To preserve. To preserve what? His group’s power. What was he going to do with this power and this group? Rebuild the country. What country? Here, everything became vague” (75). The war doesn’t seem to have any personal significance or benefit to Mounir other than a greater uncertainly guaranteed, lingering promise of future prosperity. This passage and general concept really stuck out to me because it is applicable to all areas of life. We sometimes become so buried in the banalities of our daily routines and circumstances that we forget to reassess our situation by evaluating its value to our wellbeing or if we can still find its cause meaningful. Not only does Mounir lose interest in the motives perpetuating this war, but he finds its effects changing him for the worse: “During the two months since he had thrown himself into his clan’s battle, he had been constantly irritated. Everything annoyed him that was not directly linked to his new functions” (75). If the war is not beneficial to him at large but is also negatively affecting him on a personal level, he needs to recognize that he needs to do away with the institution and alienate himself from his circumstance. As the chapter concludes, “how could anyone manage to see clearly through so many layers of half-cooked ideas jostling in the myth-stuffed brains which have turned into cages for parrots?” (76). The productiveness of war cannot be determined by examining the institution from an exterior, politically presented view, but must be assessed individually by the war’s actors and its utility to each participant personally.
Tribalism and community are two important themes explored in Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose. As I read through the narrative, it dawned on me that the two are essentially the same concept at different stages in humanity’s evolution. Our conception of community is essentially a more evolved form of tribalism. Both are rooted in our innate desire to find safety within a group, a survival mechanism that results in a group of like-minded individuals who are bound together.
The two aren’t entirely the same, however. While tribalism is built on fear of the “other”, there are many communities that exist today that are built out of love and understanding, “I know that the only true love is the love of the stranger” (95). In the novel, Sitt Marie Rose has built one such community in the school for deaf-mutes. Through her love and ability to accept the children for what they are, Sitt Marie has created a community in which the children feel safe and secure, despite the civil war raging outside. Directly contrasting the community of deaf-mutes is Mounir and the rest of the Arab World. They have yet to evolve from a primal form tribalism where the only important aspect of life is to retain one’s own, twisted identity. One of the greatest lessons I learned from the narrative was that in order for us to continue to survive in an rapidly evolving world we must learn to accept and love each other regardless of our differences, thus building a community built from trust rather succumbing to tribalism built on fear.
Reading Response #1 – Safe Area Garazde
I found Safe Area Gorazde to be a fascinating read. It was captivating to learn about The Bosnian War in the graphic novel format. I felt I was able to internalize the specifics of the experience on the individual level in a way that a more traditional historical account would not be able to offer. This is essentially the only education about the Bosnian War I’ve ever experienced, and I can definitely say that it was enlightening to have this era, which I was alive for, demystified.
I can’t believe that something like the genocides of Srebrenica happened in the developed world and during my lifetime, and I was shocked about the idle response of the UN during the unfolding of the mass killings. My memory of this was less vivid than the trial of OJ Simpson. This is an interesting discovery, because its remarkable to think about how the scandal of OJ Simpson still has a greater presence in the minds of Americans than such a violent, genocidal period in Europe. Its also shocking as a pivotal moment in the definition of “world peacekeepers” and the United Nations. This second point of the establishment of the force of the UN was also facinating for me because I assumed that the United Nations has functioned with the same consistency and with the same rule from the time of its inception. It makes sense, though, that there would need to be a period where the shift went from that ideologue to an application of force.
I’ve learned to appreciate the graphic novel format. While on the surface it doesn’t seem appropriate to “cartoon” the great horror that is genocide, but I appreciated the style of storytelling that it afforded, and I don’t think a classic novel would accomplish this the say way. The ability to seamlessly go between multiple levels of storytelling and cross individual and temporal boundaries of narration, along with the graphic depiction of interpersonal reactions and emotions, makes this work very profound.
Freud’s ideas on trauma are weaved into
Freud’s definition of trauma works perfectly for many of the patients Rivers tends to. Although Rivers’ Freudian methods many not always been approved of, he is able to get many of his patients’ lives back on track. Willard for example, lost the use of his legs for no apparent reason. [Rivers] “There was no injury to the spine” (Barker 112). Willard responds by asking, “If there’s no injury to the spine, then why can’t I walk?” A psychoanalytical conversation follows where Rivers gets to the root of the problem: “I can’t walk because I don’t want to go back” (Barker 112). Another patient, Billy Prior, has gone mute, but has night terrors that keep his roommates awake. Rivers uses a form of psychoanalytic hypnosis to find the root of Priors problems. Prior had repressed his problems, and upon dealing with his trauma he was able to move on with his life and gain back part of his former self. Freud’s methods of treatments focused on facing your fears and working through them slowly. As Rivers helps his patients work through their problems, he is also realizing all the problems that the war is causing and realizing that the war is the main problem for all these people. The war is what affected all his patients so traumatically that they need his assistance to get better. Trauma acts as the role of the antagonist. Its what every patient is fighting and what Rivers ends up understanding better at the end of the novel as a result of dealing with all his patients’ trauma.