Reader, this is Me

By Zoe Jannuzi


My name is Zoe. I’m 19, and I’m from Baltimore City. I’d like to start with a couple of quotes. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been drawn to words, I’ll be the first to admit they are incredibly imperfect, yet I’ve spent my whole life collecting them. When I was little it was phrases from movies I’d watched or books I’d read. Now that I’m older, it’s more often something funny a friend said or something wise a teacher said. The notes app on my phone is full of quotes, most of which I’ll probably never go back to, but that struck me in some way, and at that point in time warranted writing down. When I read books, even for fun, I’ll keep a bookmark covered in page numbers, marking down pages with insights I particularly enjoyed. Throughout this session, you might see me pull out a tiny notebook and jot something down. Don’t be alarmed, I’m just casually recording your exact words for perpetuity.

In the previous paragraph, I wrote “Now that I’m older…” which is kind of misleading as I’m still only 19. I think part of the reason I’m drawn to quotes, especially in writing, is because, as a fairly young person, I mistrust my written word (perhaps more than I should). My favorite quotes are the ones that evoke a feeling I understand intuitively, but couldn’t previously express. In our verbal language-centered world, the words you speak are often used to make judgments about your character. Although I believe that in conversation personal word choice is incredibly important, I also think that you can learn a lot about a person from the words and phrases they borrow, find important, and hold dear. The language we respect shows a lot about who we want to be. As I’m still in the very beginnings of life, I want to figure that out as deeply as possible.

When a person speaks to me I begin to understand who they are. When a person shows me the parts that stand out to them in their favorite books, their favorite quotes, or which lines they’ve highlighted in last night’s reading I begin to understand how they see the world.

So… in an attempt to start to show you how I see the world, I’ve copied some quotes both from the background readings for this course and from my recent life. Of course, words are imperfect, and we all interpret things differently (one of the most remarkable things about our diverse planet) so you probably won’t see them as I do, but maybe you’ll stumble upon one that holds meaning for you. At the very least if you love or hate one we could have a great conversation.

From my recent life:

“Justice is what love looks like in public” – Cornell West

“Connection is the ultimate Patronus” – Aditi Juneja

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not lead single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde

“Ever seen too many midnights for no good reason?” – Hanna

“Radical humanization” – Sa’ed Atshan

“legitimate peripheral participation” – Edwin Mayorga

“History is an endlessly interesting argument where evidence is everything and storytelling is everything else.” – Jill Lepore

“I’m a father. Finding some way to be optimistic is part of the job description. But also I believe that critical optimism is a political necessity. Pessimism gives rise to nostalgic politics, and nostalgic politics tends to be racist, xenophobic, exclusionary, regressive, and very, very dangerous.” – Mohsin Hamid

“Our lives are remembered by the gifts we give our children” – Milo Thatch, Atlantis

“I’m a superficial work in progress” – Anna

“Sectionalizing the past does not always help to facilitate discussions around them” – Diego Armus

From the readings:

“If human needs were satisfied, would serious violence at all social levels then be avoided?” – John Burton

“There is a tendency within the development community as a while, not merely that portion dealing with postconflict situations, to seek “solutions” to problems that can be applied more or less universally. Although there are many similarities among postconflict communities, wholesale application of approaches that have proved successful in one postconflict environment may well be ineffective or even counterproductive in another postconflict environment.” – Nicole Ball

“Whether we are dealing with children, street gangs, ethnic communities, or nations of peoples, we are finding that there are human problems to be solved, and that no amount of coercion or repression can for long contain human developmental aspirations.” – John Burton

“Violence is here defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is.” – Johan Galtung

“… there is no reason to believe that the future will not bring us richer concepts and more forms of social action that combine absence of personal violence with fight against social injustice once sufficient activity is put into research and practice. There are more than enough people willing to sacrifice one for the other – it is by aiming for both that peace research can make a real contribution.” – Johan Galtung

“The voice of intelligence is drowned out by the roar of fear. It is ignored by the voice of desire. It is contradicted by the voice of shame. It is biased by hate and extinguished by anger. Most of all, it is silenced by ignorance.” – Karl Menninger

I’d like to end with a quote that is much less pleasant, something that the man who currently occupies the role of President in this country said about my city. Of Baltimore, Trump tweeted “no human being would want to live there” along with a slew of other racist insults. Being from Baltimore has shaped the way I see the world in an invaluable way, and my home city is one of the major reasons I’m interested in peacebuilding. I love my city. The best part of me would like to believe that Trump’s remarks come only from a place of ignorance, but the more parts of himself he shows the world, the more I think they come from a learned hatred of the other. I doubt anybody you meet in Baltimore will deny that it is a city with its fair share of problems. But simply criticizing a place, the structural violence ingrained in its institutions and the personal violence beings carried out by its people, is not a step towards building peace, nor is it respectful or dignified. Among many other things, during these three weeks I hope to learn how I can begin to build peace with people who think so differently than I when they see Baltimore they think not of all types of loving friendly people, but of rats, garbage, and crime.

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