How James Baldwin Giovanni’s Room Can Be Read As a Commentary on US Cultural Attitudes

Introduction

Giovanni’s room novel focuses on events that James Baldwin, the author, experienced in Paris as an American man. The events describe his feelings and frustrations especially involving his relationship with other men he encountered, specifically a bartender of Italian origin named Giovanni (Brim 55). The novel brings about issues related to homosexuality as well as bisexuality to a reading public empathy, thus developing a wider public discourse of matters regarding homosexuality. Baldwin plays a role of representing David and his predicament for being exposed to racism in America. Social isolation was one of the issues that Baldwin had to handle after his girlfriend left for Spain. He started a relationship with another man named Giovanni, who was later executed. The story depicts concerns of isolation, masculinity, and gender issues that pushed him to alienation.

The Rationale for the Novel to be Read as a Commentary on US Cultural Attitudes

Racism

Racism is not an emerging issue in the United States. It has existed even before the 1900s. Despite its presence for a long a time, it is still a vice that the contemporary United States society is facing. Some may not understand what it means to be racially discriminated. Racism is discrimination based on one’s skin color or racial orientation and has mainly been felt by people of foreign ancestry such as Hispanics and African Americans in the United States (Zimring 30). One might wonder, why the U.S, which has had an African American president continued to experience cases of racism. One would think that having an African American president would translate to people learning to coexist despite their differences but this is not the case. Laws have also been made against racism and the United States Constitution also protects its citizens from any form of discrimination. However, racism still prevails in the superpower country (Simpson and Yinger 94). In regards to the application of Giovanni’s Room, it is apparent that there is a need to fight racism and discrimination to avoid issues that David experienced after he ran away from the U.S for being discriminated against.

Violence against women

Violence against women remains to be one of the most prevalent crimes on humanity in the United States and worldwide. More than 50% of women go through at least one form of violence in their lives with the majority of the cases happening before the women turn 30 years (Lombard and Lesley 52). This does not absolve the mature women from violence since a number of those above 30 years whether married or single, do go through violent experiences, some emanating from their husbands and others from associates. Most abused women need medical help, and the treatment cost is often high hence the need to end such violence. In many cases, the violence results in emotional suffering that ends up in the victim being depressed though, in some cases, the offender inflicts bodily harm on his victim. In Giovanni’s Room, violence against women is witnessed where David experiences his first sexual encounter with a boy, Joey, where he plays the role of a man and the boy acted as his girlfriend. After making love to the boy, he bullied the boy just for sake of wanting to feel like a man. Despite the fact that Joey had fallen for David and made love to him, he decided to just bully her for no reason. This is a representation of the events that happen in the United States when violence against women is reported.

An example of a strategy that can be used in the U.S to fight against violence against women is the Rose Campaign program that runs in Canada as a national campaign that sensitizes people about the need to embrace the social wellbeing of each other in the society. The Rose Campaign is indispensable due to its active role in sensitizing the public about the important roles women play in the community when the society offers them love and supports their activities. The campaign has given many accounts of social ills done on women, and it demonstrates the agony and suffering violence inflicts on the victims (Renzetti, Jeffrey and Raquel 151). In addition, The Rose Campaign educates the public about the consequences of violence against women besides pointing out the different forms of punishment available to the offenders. The rose campaign has been quite vocal on its approach to the emotional problem of violence. Some of its ideas include the following:

Talk about violence in the society: The rose campaign encourages all people to talk about the various injustices that are committed against women and the best ways to handle them. The campaigners decided to use this approach since a number of offenders made an excuse that they believed their actions did not amount to violence (Renzetti, Jeffrey and Raquel 157). An example is a person who suspects that his wife is cheating on him and decides to make her account for the way she spent her day. Such an act is humiliating to the wife, and it may lead to a broken marriage or worse still suicide or murder.

Raise children who solve problems through constructive conversations: The campaign challenges parents and teachers to introduce children to problem-solving skills at an early age. They point out that, it is much more advantageous to train a young child to talk through a problem or seek outside help as opposed to violence instead of letting that child learn from friends who could introduce him to violence.

Create safe communities for women: In many cases, violence against women results from the casual nature in which the society treats women. In some societies, people believe that women should submit fully to men and follow directives as they come from the man (Lombard and Lesley 56). In such scenarios, the man can easily become violent when he finds that his wife has gone against his ideals. As a result, we should create safe neighborhoods where all people respect women as human beings and shall assist such women to live peacefully.

Promote women’s economic and political growth: Having successful women in high-ranking offices shall instill confidence to the public that even women can be achievers in business and politics. This way, all those people who intended to cause violence against women will think twice and instead try to support them to exploit their full potential in the society.

Cultural Issues

Sociologists believe that the culture where people are brought up matters a lot in the person’s character. They hold that parents and guardians should demonstrate to the young ones how to share roles and responsibilities between males and females and that each person should effectively perform his/her part as a way of bringing up responsible young persons. In addition, the society has the final solution to ending violence by raising people who embrace dialog as opposed to violence when solving problems. According to Simpson and Yinger (92), each society has its set of beliefs and values that may be hard to abolish at once but when all parties talk about the best way to live together in harmony, the good morals shall soon become contagious and overshadow the old beliefs.

To remind people of the need to avoid violence, the campaigns advocate wearing a rose that demonstrates a commitment to the society to tell any violent person to maintain peace as a way of assisting other people to develop their full working capacity. In addition, these campaigners believe that stopping violence against women is a big mission that needs the participation of all people in the community, where each contributes both time and money to organize for drives and events that sensitize the public about violence. Cardenas (52) believes that it is possible to drum out violence when the entire community joins efforts as opposed to having one group moving around talking to the villagers. The continued racism cases in the U.S show that there are cultural issues that need to be resolved to set the country on the right path. David fled to Spain where he wanted to establish who he was as he wished to do his writing because it was not possible in America.

Human Rights           

Fundamental human rights are those rights available to all persons by virtue of being human. The European Union is based on the values of people’s dignity and recognizing human rights among others. The development of human rights was inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations (Cardenas 54). The growth of human rights in the European community has been influenced by international instruments, regional instruments like the national laws such as the constitutions of member states.

            In 1953, The Convention came into force and its ratification became a condition for joining the Organization. This convention has established The European Court of Human Rights which administers the implementation of the Convention. Its scope extends to Individuals bringing complaints of human rights violations after all possibilities of appeal have been exhausted in the member state (Sweeney 9). The rights under this convention are protected in European community law.

            Article 1 of the Convention requires all member states to protect the rights and freedoms contained in the convention. The convention contains some three parts. Section 1 contains the rights and freedoms which are found in Article 2 to 18, these articles are structured as general provisions, coupled with their exceptions or limitation to the basic right, for example, Article 2 provides for the protection of all human life by law, Article 2 (2) provides the exception to this basic right where certain uses of force may lead to death (Sweeney 12). Section II that include Articles 19 to 51 sets up the Court European Court Of Human Rights, its way of operation, composition, and jurisdiction. Section III covers other provisions.

            European Court of Human Rights cannot take up cases of its own motion. The court has jurisdiction to hear violations of the convention and do so under Article 33 and Article 34, where the scope of the ECHR complaints procedures extends to inter-State complaints and individual complaints. Applications to the court need to meet certain requirements if they are to admissible; The complaint is lodged through a letter that should contain a brief summary of the complaint, an indication of how the convention has been breached, the remedies available and a list of official decisions related to the case and their dates.

            The convention is binding to the national courts and the courts must apply the convention in protecting human rights as outlined in Article 13 on effective remedies in case of violation by an authority, a person can complain to the court. Article 46 on the binding force and delivery of judgments, the decisions of this court are binding on the States concerned and the execution of these judgments monitored (Sweeney 16). The Court may deliver new judgments or uphold the decisions of the previous court.

Lesson to learn from the development of EU law to curb abuse of human rights

            The EU subscribes to the 1993 Vienna Convention that stresses on the universality of all human rights. In this respect, the EU has acted to broaden and strengthen the international human rights in its member states. The member states acted to strengthen and educate the common citizen on the extensiveness and importance of understanding their rights (Sweeney 18). Given the economic character of the EC, the charter was established to promote human rights and social rights in order to supplement this economic and political nature, which led to the introduction of the principles of democracy promotion and human rights. The EU has established itself globally in the development and provision of aid to other nations. This has been done mostly through the EU Commission.

            The commission has developed an Impact Assessment Programs on itself to measure the impacts of the organization's policies regarding the promotion and protection of human rights in the EU and beyond. The EC is the first international institution to explicitly ban the death penalty. This has been seen as a fundamental step in promoting human rights to all regardless of their status in the community (Sweeney 22). It has partnered with both Non-governmental and government to further the promotion of the non-derogable right to life as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Conclusion

Giovanni’s room novel sets the pace that looks like the representation of what the American society looks like. Issues of, violence against women, racism, masculinity, and human right abuses, in general, have characterized what society looks like. There is a need to learn a lesson from Giovanni’s room and develop policies to curb negative cultural attitudes inhibited in society. A strategy taken by Canada can be an example of how the United States and other countries can adapt to bring sanity in the society. The issue of masculinity has sidelined women in taking up leadership roles and other development arenas. Fighting against these issues can help the women rise to political and leadership positions, which can help develop the country and uplift the people’s living standards.

 

Works cited:

Cardenas, Sonia. Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and Hope. Philadelphia:   University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Print.

Lombard, Nancy, and Lesley McMillan. Violence against Women: Current Theory and Practice in Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence and Exploitation. London: Jessica Kingsley            Publishers, 2013. Print.

Renzetti, Claire M, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Raquel K. Bergen. Sourcebook on Violence against    Women. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, 2011. Print.

Simpson, George E, and J M. Yinger. Racial and Cultural Minorities: An Analysis of Prejudice   and Discrimination. New York: Harper, 2013. Print.

Sweeney, James. The European Court of Human Rights in the Post-Cold War Era: Universality in Transition. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Zimring, Carl A. Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States.        New York, NY: New York University Press, 2017. Print.

 

 

 

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Brim, Matt. James Baldwin and the Queer Imagination. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2017. Print.