Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Takeaways from Beah. From Mike Lohre.

Students, in the Comments section, let's make a final reflection and some "takeaways" from A Long Way Gone.

1) First, share your two very favorite passages from the entire book, and explain why you choose these.

2) Next, pick one of the big picture questions below and respond to it as best you can.


  • What rights do we have as human beings?
  • What does it mean to have universal rights?
  • What does the notion that humans have natural rights come from?
  • What are the political, social and economic costs of defending the rights of all people?
  • Do we have a social responsibility to help defend the basic rights of others?  Why or why not?
  • How do the arts affect change and give meaning to social responsibility?
  • How does the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen serve as a conduit for change, giving voice to those who have been affected by poverty, conflict and violence?  Even if sad or tragic, why are these stories and pictures important to us as humans?


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  2. One of my favorite passages in this book is actually in chapter 19, on page 182. "But gradually I adjusted to being around people who were happy all the time." This sentence sums up a lot of the book, and explains that Ishmael went through a lot of struggles, to the point where being happy was abnormal. Another favorite passage of mine is in chapter two, on the bottom of page twenty. “These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past." This is such a well put together sentence, and explains so much. It talks about how no matter what Ishmael is doing, he is never going to be able to escape his memories of the past.

    What does it mean to have universal rights?
    I think this means that no matter where you are in the world, or what background you come from, you have the right to certain things. Everybody in this world should have certain rights that they are born with, and people should be aware of this.

  3. "In the daytime, instead of playing soccer in the village square, i took turns at the guard post around the village, smoking marijuana, and sniffing brown brown, cocaine mixed with gun powder, which was always spread out on the table, and of course taking more of the white capsules, as i had become addicted to them."

    This passage stood out to me because it showed how quickly his childhood had ended

    "All i could think about was my G3 weapon and what movie my squad was watching that night, what good marijuana and cocaine were at their disposal."

    This passage stood out to me because it showed that he really liked being a soldier and he had formed a special bond with his squad.

    Q:How does the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen serve as a conduit for change, giving voice to those who have been affected by poverty, conflict and violence? Even if sad or tragic, why are these stories and pictures important to us as humans?

    A: I believe writing and films play an important role in today's society because if it weren't for journalists and news agencies we wouldn't have a clue what kind of atrocities and problems are going on in the world. These people risk their lives to bring us important news. Also their work lets the U.S. help aid in different kinds of ways depending on what is going on.

  4. 1) When Ishmael was talking to Esther and she said "None of what happened is your fault. You were just a little boy, anything you want to tell me, I am here to listen." I thought this was an important passage in the book because Esther is making a real effort at trying to gain Ismael's trust and he hasn't trusted anyone in a very long time.

    Another passage that I found to be very important to the story was at the end of chapter 19. it was after Ismael had been watching the daily activities of other families. "It made me with I could go back to the beginning and change things. Ishmael wants more than anything else to just have his family back and go back to the way things were before he was forcibly recruited into the war. This is important to the story because of the emotional trauma that Ishmael carries with him at all times.

    2) I strongly believe that the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen can make a difference. Using pictures of the violence and destruction that has occurred in countries such as Sierra Leone can send a message to those who have the power to change whats going on in these countries. Those individuals who take the time to write about whats going on or show what they saw firsthand through a photo, can do powerful things. Those are the individuals that can make a difference to the people and child soldiers affected by war each and every day. with enough awareness about a situation, we can make a difference and help.

  5. 1. Pg 95 "I had lost my sense of touch. My hands and feet punched and kicked the burning walls, but I couldnt feel a thing". This one of my favorite passages because Ishmael experiences no pain, which portrays his life in a way that he has nothing left for him to fight for. No matter what he does, he will never be able to bring back his family and friends from the dead. It really makes him think of why he is doing all these horrific things. Its an eye opener for him and the way that he is to live his life. Second favorite passage is on Pg. 166 "In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion". Not only is it a great saying but the sky is never ending. The sky is nothing like the earth, it contains the unknown. The sky and all of its natural elements serve as a form of hope for Ishmael. Though things are bad in a given area, there are still many unknown places that are far more different from earth, they are just waiting to be discovered just like Ishmael and how his life is to turn out.
    2. What rights do we have as human beings? I believe that we as humans have the right to explore, conquer, advance, learn, opinion, and the right to do as we please without a higher power that controls over us.

  6. 1.) My first passage is from page 18 in Chapter 2. "I am pushing a rusty wheelbarrow in a town where the air smells of blood and burnt flesh. The breeze brings the faint cries of those whose last breaths are leaving their mangled bodies. I walk past them. Their arms and legs are missing; their intestines spill out through bullet hole in their stomachs; brain matter comes out of their noses and ears." My second passage is on page 157 and chapter 17. "I do not know what happened, but when I woke up the next day I felt as if I had had nails hammered into the bones of my foot and my veins were being chiseled. I felt so much pain that I was unable to cry out loud; tears just fell from my eyes." I picked both of these passages because they use a lot of sensory details which bring it to life. They show what he has experienced in his life and what a strong person it took to overcome everything,

    2.) I think that having universal rights is having equal rights with everyone else without discrimination. In doing so, everyone can be equal and has the same chance at being successful than everyone else.

  7. 1.) I think my very favorite passage would be the story of the monkey on pages 217-218. I like it because it's a good representation of making decisions in life. There isn't always a way out of things you sometimes have to make difficult decisions because there is no escape from it. My second favorite would be the last paragraph on 39. It was about how his brother tried to teach him how to skip rocks. I love how he called it "magic". It's just such a brotherly thing and it really showed you the love they had for each other and that passage makes it just more heart breaking that he never saw Junior again.

    2.) Do we have the social responsibility to help defend the basic rights of others? Why or why not?
    I think it's a choice, but morally speaking yes. I feel like we should defend others rights if we want our own defended as well, it goes along with that whole do unto to others as you would want done to you. For example the rebels had no right to take all the lives of those innocent people and I think it's sad that the people had no power to defend themselves with. I think it's common sense to defend others.

  8. 1. One of my favorite passages is when he gets chased by the pigs when he is hiding in the forest. This passage was when I was most into the book and it kept me interested a lot better. I like how he has to figure out how to survive and stay away from these road blocked. My second favorite passage was when Esther gives him the Walkman and cassettes. This was really inspiring because he hadn't been given anything that nice in his life.

    2. I picked the question on what are the human rights. One of the rights that we have is that we should all be free and equal. This should always be considered by everyone. We should have the right to go wherever we want in the country. Humans should also have the right to belong to a country. Another human right is that there shouldn't be slavery. A human right is to not be tortured. They should not be able to torture anyone without consent.

  9. 1.) "When I was very little, my father used to say, "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die." from page 54

    I like this quote because it is a great passage to live by. If you have nothing good in life then go out and get something worth living for.

    "Whenever I looked at rebels during raids, I got angrier, because they looked like the rebels who played cards in the ruins of the village where I had lost my family. So when the lieutenant gave orders, I shot as many as I could, but I didn't feel any better." from page 122

    I like this passage because although Ishmael has a strong hatred for the rebels that are responsible for the deaths of the people he knew and loved. He still doesn't find closure in killing. It means he is truly is good at heart.

    2.) Do we have a social responsibility to help defend the basic rights of others?

    My mom told me when I was very little that if you have the power to change a bad situation then it is your responsibility to do whatever you can to help those who are in need of your care, because you never know when you may need the help of others when you are in trouble.

  10. On Page 194, When we entered the city, it seemed as if someone had lit the many tall buildings that shot into the sky. From afar, some of the buildings looked as if they were made of colorful lights. The city glittered, and I was so completely overwhelmed that I couldn't decide where to look. I thought I had seen tall buildings in Freetown, but these were beyond tall, it seemed they were poking the sky. There were so many cars on the street, and they impatiently honked, even when the light was red. And then I saw poeple walking on the sidewalks. I rubbed my eyes to make sure that I was really seeing people on the streets of NewYork City. It wasn't as dangerous as I had heard it was. Not so far. The lights were brighter than the ones back home, and I kept looking for the utility poles that the elctric wires hung on, but I couldn't see any."

    This was one of my favorite passages because it is like he is a kid in the candy shop, He gets to experience the free world for the first time and be in awe of a life outside of Sierra Leone. I think I like this too because it takes him back to the freedom you have as a child to just stand and observe. As you grow up, you're so consumed with where you have to be, who you are with etc. that you never really get to just enjoy and observe your surroundings.

    The second passage I liked was his speech, on page 199. I think it was important that he included how he didn't speak from his speech and it ended up being so profound. It shows the change he has made in his life and the growth he has expierenced in his life at only the age of 17. I also love how to he reconginizes and said I am a child. So innocently yet so profound he is stating, the trauma he has expierenced and yes children are feared right now but remember I am a child. A child with no choice, a child who has been traumatized, a child who didn't get a childhood but ultimately I am an Innocent child and people, the world need to remember that. That child soldiers are just that, children.

    Do we have a social respondsibilty to help defend the basic rights of others? Why or Why not?

    I think we do have the respondsibilty to help defend basic rights of others because sometimes they don't have the power to do that themselves. I think we saw that in the book a lot. If people start to loose their rights, the person or government won't stop until they've taken everything. If nothing is done to stop it, nothing will change in the end. We are all so different but in the end we want the same things in a general term. It is our duty as human beings to make sure everyone is being treatly fairly.

  11. My two favorite passages would be when Ishmael gives his speech to the "UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)" I really liked when he says that he "...had a speech that had been written for me in Freetown but I decided to speak from the heart instead." Ishmael's decision to me was something that really made the speech much more powerful. The second passage that was one of my favorites would be at the very end when he tells the story about the monkey. When he writes that there is "no right answer" to the question that the story forces you to ask. No matter what you decide, someone will die. And this, to me, explained the problem that Ishmael faced with his past. Like we discussed in class, he is pretty much two people at the end of this book, a child, and a killer. And the story helps to explain this a little better.

    I do believe that we have a social responsibility to help defend the rights of others. I believe this because I believe that everyone deserves rights, and to have those rights taken away is one of the worst crimes anyone can do. I think that we should help defend the rights of others because it is what we would want if the roles were reversed.

  12. Two of my favorite passages from A Long Way Gone:
    1. In Chapter 20, on page 197, Ishamel said "....At the end of these long discussions, our faces and eyes glittered with hope and the promise of happiness. It seemed we were transforming our sufferings as we talked about ways to solve their causes and let them be known to the world". The reason that I chose this passage is because it shows the readers that Ishmael still has a little bit of hope left in him. He talks to and meets a lot of people throughout this story and it's very nice to finally see that he has encountered people who has really impacted his life in a positive way.

    2. In Chapter 20, on page 196, Ishmael said "Within minutes of talking to each other, we knew that the room was filled with young people who had had a very different childhood, and some were going to return to these lives at the end of the conference. After the introductions, we sat in a circle so that the different facilitators could tell us about themselves". I chose this passage as one of my favorites because it really opened my eyes to that fact that there is always someone out there going through something similar to you and that you are never alone. At this point in his life, he actually felt like he had people that he could relate to and people that he could turn to with different things and I think this gave Ishmael hope.

    BIG PICTURE QUESTION: What does it mean to have universal rights?

    1. To me, universal rights are something that are automatically given to people because of the simple fact that we are humans. We are born into a society that allows us to have different rights regardless of your location, religion, political views, fundamentals or because of your ethnicity. Humans live in a world where we are given these rights without exactly working for them but in order to keep these rights we have to follow certain rules and eventuall work for it.

  13. One of my very favorite passages from the book "A Long Way Gone" is the passage on pg 199 where Ismael gives us part of his speech that he gave at the UN Economic Social Council chamber. The thing that I really like about it is, Ismael had a speech written out for him from people in Freetown but instead he decided to speak from his heart and tell people what he really believed and what he experienced as a young child solider. I really like where he said "I am not a solider anymore; I am a child." Because it shows how far he has come and that he is still innocent and trying to move on from his tormented past in Sierra Leone.

    Another passage that I really liked is on page 106 where Ismael's Lieutenant gives them a speech about the sole purpose of their acts in the war and what they are fighting for. Of course I do not like the idea of fighting or war, but I really think that this paragraph helps the audience to connect a little bit more and to understand why Ismael and the soldiers fought and did what they did.

    "How does the lens of a camera...serve as a conduit for change, giving voice...conflict and violence? ...why are these stories and pictures important to us as humans?"
    I think that any way of speech or means of getting a message across whether is be through a camera or ink or even through songs gives people a voice because they have the ability to tell their story anyway they chose to in order to get message to those who will listen. I think these stories and pictures are important to us because as humans we have that natural tendency to empathize with people who are stuggling or who have been through a lot. Some more than others will empathize more but something difficult in ones life or in anothers will more often than not, hit home to the hearts of human beings and help us to understand a little more about humanity and what the world has to deal with.

  14. One of my favorite passages from the book is when Mohamed and Ishmael get reunited at the center after being apart since the beginning of the war. This passage is one of my favorite because of how the arrival of Ishmael's childhood friend is able to trigger memories of Ishmael's childhood that he couldn't before, due to the affects the war had on him. "I joined him, and we did some moves we had learned together for a group dance to this particular song. We high-fived each other and then hugged."
    Another one of my favorite passages was how Ishmael ended the book with the Monkey Hunter story. The ending seems to have a controversial meaning to it, allowing people to take away from the story in many different ways. I felt that the monkey hunter story showed that no matter what you do, whether you run away and not do anything, or stay and shoot the monkey there were going to be consequences. That is why Ishmael said he would rather shoot the monkey in order to at the very least help others in the future, just like he tried to do by going to the New York conference and talking about the problems back home.

    What rights do we have as human beings?
    As human beings, I believe that we have the right to do whatever we choose to do. Even though I do believe that, I also believe in the idea that some of our freedoms need to be constrained in order to maintain peace and order in society, which is exactly what our laws are in place for. We as humans have the right to choose the path in life we go on, even when it seems that you only have one options, you will always have a choice in the way you go in life.

  15. 1. 'When I was seven i had an answer to this question that made sense to me...I concluded to myself that if i were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament."
    I really like this ending because it shows his whole story and purpose into one idea.I believe that in this he means that he would go through suffering if it ended it for others. As in hopefully his story and troubled childhood is powerful enough to keep children out of the wars.

    2. "One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I wasn't sure when or where it was going to end. i didn't know what I was going to do with my life. i felt that I was starting over and over again." This shows his troubles growing up and even though his journey still continues today at least he has been rehabilitated and being a child soldier has ended.

    3.I believe that we as humans have the choice to do what we believe is morally right.We have the right to believe in whatever we want and say whatever we would like. In his story I believe that everyone should have the right to choose if they want to fight or not and if they want to leave the country.

  16. 1. Page 49 in chapter 8, "I had passes through burnt villages where dead bodies of men, women, and children of all ages were scattered like leaves on the ground after a storm. Their eyes still showed fear, as if death hadn't freed them from the madness that continued to unfold." These are one of my favorite lines of the book because it explains Ishmael's whole situation and why he went into the military in his childhood in the first place. He was brainwashed into thinking death will solve everything. Those were his thoughts throughout the book and in the end he is rehabilitated into thinking the opposite.

    I also like the part from page 209 in chapter 21, "I had to leave, because I was afraid that if I stayed in Freetown any longer, I was going to end up being a soldier again or my former army friends would kill me if I refused." Even with everything he's been, through, Ishmael still faces the struggles he went through in his memory. Being content with life and getting away from all the violence was his biggest wish, which is why he ran away from it all. He was afraid that everything would come back to him and he would go back to how he was. It shows how much dedication he has in him.

    2. What rights do we have as human beings?
    I believe that we have the right to be free, the right to learn, defend ourselves, believe in what we want, to say whatever we feel is important, and to feel comfortable with being ourselves in general.

  17. 1.) A.) "I had an answer to this question that made sense to me. I never discussed it with anyone, though, for fear of how my mother would feel. I concluded to myself that if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it no longer had a chance to put other hunters in the same predicament." (Page 218) I think this is such a powerful way to end the story of struggle Ishmael told in this book. This memory provides for an extremely thoughtful and appropriate ending to his book.
    B.)"...Everyone listened actively, raising their eyebrows and cocking their heads as they tried to understand what kind of music this was...a look of amusement flickered on his (the chief's) face. He ordered all of my friends be untied and given their cloths back. The chief explained to everyone there had been a misunderstanding and that we were only children looking for safety." (page 68) I like this passage because its shows hip hop, just a passion of Ismael's, saving his life. I also think it would have been funny to see how the natives of the village would have reacted to such foreign music.

    2.)What does it mean to have universal rights?
    I think to have universal rights it means that no matter who you are, no matter where you are, and no matter what circumstance you're in you have certain rights that should always be honored. I also think especially after reading this book that not everyone is allowed their universal rights especially in countries experiencing war or great government oppression.


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