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Love Cemetery: believable?

Like several people have discussed, Galland’s writing in Love Cemetery frequently irritates me with its overwhelming self-righteousness and self-importance. One passage that particularly frustrated and bothered me this week occurred on pages 198 and 199, in which Galland is describing how, apparently, all the women at a retreat suddenly started crying and apologizing together. Galland describes “tears of connection, tears of release. We were no longer trying to act as if this pain was not between us, as if we did not intimately feel the corrosive touch of a past that is still so much with us. It’s the pain of our stitched-together American democracy, torn and unraveling.” (198) On the next page, Galland valiantly declares, “‘This is a rare opportunity for us as white women to apologize directly for racism and to be forgiven by African American women,’ I said to the others, ‘a true gift’ for those who feel so moved.” (199).  I’ve read this passage over several times and its staggering pretentiousness never ceases to inherently bother me and make me feel kind of icky.

We’ve talked a lot about the hangover of slavery which can still be seen and felt throughout the country. It’s practically everywhere – the fact that the accomplishments of African Americans are, to this day, annotated by their race, the fact that there’s a minority cemetery behind Wolf Ranch that practically none of us even knew existed, the fact that Old Georgetown Cemetery is literally divided in two, and the list goes on. These are ways in which the nation as a whole as well as our own personal pocket of Texas are still impacted by the actions of White Americans nearly 150 years ago, and I think we can all agree that there’s no quick and easy way to fix it. This passage from Love Cemetery almost comes across as though Galland believes that she personally has done this wonderful and impressive thing to make progress toward racial unity and the end of racism. It’s almost as though Galland expects everyone to join hands and sing; this passage seems like a picturesque scene, perfectly scripted from a movie as opposed to real life. I have a really difficult time believing that the events played out exactly the way Galland described.

Racism and the hangover of slavery are still running rampant in America, and this is only enhanced by the fact that, for the most part, we all try to ignore the elephant in the room and pretend it’s not a problem. I understand and appreciate the need for people to come together to find a way to help with these issues, but Galland’s self-righteous delcarations of all that she personally has done to improve these problems and her picturesque description of White and Black women crying together and embracing seems a lot like trying to cover a bullet hole with a band-aid.

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  1. January 26, 2011 at 3:33 am

    I have to say I totally agree with you. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years reading about racism, watching movies about racism, but I’ve never been as bothered by it as I am by people who react to it as Galland does. What good does apologizing do in this day and age? Yes, we should learn to work together and get passed all of the bad blood surrounding race. But apologizing doesn’t fix anything, especially when you are not the direct actor and the person you are apologizing to is no the direct victim. I know this is bad for an English major (and writer) to say, but “I’m Sorry” is just a two word phrase, especially if uttered within the context that Galland mentions it.

  2. January 26, 2011 at 3:45 am

    I will definitely agree with you on that! The holding hands and crying part was just a little too romantic for my liking. I just find it hard to believe that everyone came together as gracefully and ideally as she claims. I also like the comment on the elephant in the room. We all know about slavery. We know when it was, what it was, how it affects us today. I think we should stop hiding from it and start doing something to move forward.

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