“ Mr. Gorbachev, Open This Gate…Tear Down This Wall”
When first reading Robert Frost’s Mending Wall, Yusef Komunyakaa’s Slam, Dunk, & Hook, Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Common Ground and Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach’s The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit in Higher Education, I became so engrossed in the stories that I wasn’t paying enough attention to detail. After reading them a second time, it hit me! The common thread that links all four of these stories together is unity, or shall I say disunity. This lack of unity is the result of the walls and barriers that we sometimes put up ourselves or that are put up by others. After reading these stories and finding that theme, the first thing that popped into mind was the very famous speech by President Ronald Reagan on June 13, 1987 challenging the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the Berlin Wall and to bring about peace and unity.
“Good fences make good neighbors” (Lines 25-30 & 45) was a line with only five words and referenced only twice in Frost’s poem but really stuck in the back of my head. This line really made me think, because there is no reason for a fence, it is just there for the sake of dividing. The speaker remains frustrated by his neighbor and challenges him to look beyond his old-fashioned ways, but he is stubborn, and will not. This reminded me so much of Ihimaera’s Whale Rider when Koro said, “She won’t be any good to me, no good, I won’t have anything to do with her.” (Pg. 16) The speaker in Mending Wall appealing to his neighbor to stray away from tradition and to tear down the fence paralleled Nanny Flowers and others in Whale Rider appealing Koro to look past tradition and Kahu’s gender and to love her all the same.
There is also a deep connection between Cofer’s Common Ground and Whale Rider as well. In Common Ground, Cofer vividly describes the figurative DNA that makes up who she is along and explains that everyone has unique traits but in the end we are all unified by a common ground. I believe this speaks to Koro in Whale Rider the most because for a large part of the novel he only saw her as his “female” granddaughter who was born first and ruined the line of lineage and leadership, but in the end he saw past that and realized what he had been missing this whole time and loved her for how truly amazing she was.
In Slam, Dunk, & Hook, Komunyakaa used a great deal of similes and metaphors to paint a very vibrant picture for his readers. In this poem it appears that Komunyakaa has such a great love and passion for the game and that it is almost a divine experience. For Komunyakaa, there is so much more to the game than meets the eye. According to him dribbling and driving to the hoop felt as though he was “gliding like a sparrow hawk.” (Lines 30-35). He ends it beautifully saying, “On swivels of bone and faith, thourgh a lyric slipknot of joy, we knew we were beautiful and dangerous.” (Lines 35-40) This intensity and passion was of the utmost importance for this poem because if not, it would have been nothing more than just another game of basketball. Much like Slam, Dunk, & Hook, it was easy to see the same amount of passion and love, not for basketball though, but for faith and justice in Kolvenbach’s The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit in Higher Education. Klovenbach’s passion for the Catholic tradition and Jesuit ideals is quite eminent in his work. The Jesuit tradition helps to instill core values and nourish students’ greatest potential and dreams. As mentioned, "Just as in “diakonia fidei” the term faith is not specified, so in the “promotion of justice,” the term justice also remains ambiguous."(Pg. 27) The Jesuit values embrace and encourage all.
As seen in these various works, there may always be walls and barriers to break down and overcome, but passion and love always thrive, and with that, there is no failing.