How do your own cultural assumptions affect your reading of the work and the culture contemporary to it?

Due to the obvious fact that all cultures differ from one another, no other human being is similar in the ways that they apply their cultural knowledge to everyday tasks. The cultural background of my family is so vast and expanded around the world, that even within my own family, our views are set upon a scale with such extremities that it’s difficult to sometimes have a civilized discussion. Being born in Brazil, I had a different upbringing than, for example, Americans. Denise Duhamel, a creative writing teacher for the Florida International University in Miami, writes in her collection of poetry, “Two and Two” about the incident that changed America’s fate forever, 9/11. In her poem “Love Which Took Its Symmetry for Granted” she writes little bits and pieces of experiences of different American’s who lived through the tragedy. By taking in events that happened before September 11th, and after, she is able to add a puzzle-like structure that represents chaos just as if people’s lives were dipped in the same. By being an outsider to this event that shook the world, I saw it all happen – but by watching television. My external view of this occurrence is extremely ignorant, therefore both Duhamel’s and my own perspective of this cultural shock differs in our opinions of what happened during the horrors of this event.

“How easy was our failure to recognize the new weapon of the Middle East, which neither Americans nor any other Westerners could equal: the despair-driven, desperate suicide bomber.” (Duhamel, Two 32) The fact is, these suicide bomber’s have been a Kamikaze warrior for as long as their religion has been alive. Their ultimate goal is to give their all to Allah, even if it means taking the role of Hitler and driving other human religions off the face of the earth. It is a matter of opinions which my family strongly supports. I am not saying that America deserved such a tragedy, but I am saying, as a foreigner living in a Capitalist Country, they were bound to face terrorism sooner or later. Duhamel adds a rhetorical question referring to the fact that terrorism is alive: “What are the new implications of this new situation for our attitude and strategies toward war and peace, how do we distinguish between the government’s overboard definition of terrorism and actual terrorism?” (Duhamel, Two 33) It is a question to ponder to, since every government or monarchy in the world has their own tactics of terrorism within their own system of ruling. My country’s government is a bowl of corruption in itself. Terrorism happens in and out of the government. There are mobs of gangsters who threaten the cities with violence – but it takes the actual bombing of the World Trade Center, to unite the world against terrorism? My views upon this incident are so bias but only because I have the privilege to be an outsider looking in at America from another perspective.

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Duhamel also adds an interesting quote by Jerry Falwell, a well-known fundamentalist Baptist minister:

The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy forty million innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen’.

This quote represents a bias, close minded point of view – yes I am pointing my own finger at Falwell and calling him exactly what he called the rest of the world. Duhamel and I may have that similarity of judgment even though our cultures are different. She mocks the American point of view by adding an ironical and quite sadistic side of the people: “Do you think Americans will lose interest as regular programming comes back on TV? They better keep showing that rubble until there’s some war footage…” (Duhamel, Two 48) It is as if Americans only watch TV to see death happen, and they are completely stoic to the fact that the television shows they watch are recorded and aired by American companies and not foreign ones. This may perhaps be an Orwell view to control the country: by narrowing the concentration of the war to just the American side; by applying “War is peace, Freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” to the people – almost a totalitarian society.

I was living in Madrid, Spain during the bombings of March 11th, 2004. I know what its like to live in fear of terrorism – so does everybody else. Denise Duhamel’s poem “Love Which Took Its Symmetry For Granted” represents her views on how the public reacted to the terrorist act on September 11th, 2001. She adds irony, truth, and even rhetorical questions to represent the cultural side of her and her fellow Americans. We both come from different parts of the world, and have experienced different things – so our cultural values differ as well as our lifestyles. With her examples of American knowledge, she is able to question the political views of her nation, and therefore it affects the way I read her poetry knowing that it has her own personal views on such important matters.

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