Monday, December 12, 2016

Protests and Ideals

I wouldn't normally pick up this genre, but decided to give it a go- Sunil Yapa's debut novel, 'Your Heart Is a Muscle The Size Of a Fist' (2016). Set in Seattle, the backdrop and catalyst are the actual events on cold and rainy November 30, 1999, the protests against the meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO). (Reviews here, here and here.)

The story ended with the touching scene between the white Police Chief Bishop and his estranged 19-year-old adopted black son, Victor. The son ran away after the death of his adopted mother, Bishop's wife. Victor, King and her boyfriend John Henry, and various friends are part of the protest movement. Or rather, Victor is trying to sell weed to the protestors then decided to join the protest. There was police brutality detailed, the destruction of property, and injuries. There was a parallel story weaved into it, a perception from a war-torn country that wanted to gain entry into the WTO, personified in Dr. Charles Wickram­singhe, the Deputy Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka.

How good it felt to suddenly realize he wasn't out; he was in. He had passed some test he hadn't even known he was taking. 
Standing there just feeling good when his father came stepping through the crowd like a nightmare come to life. A black poncho billowing around him like a shroud. 
In his right hand, his father held a small can of pepper spray the size of a tube of toothpaste. His thumb resting on the trigger. He was looking at King and headed straight for her. He had the strangest look on his face, a look of such anger Victor wanted to run, wanted to heed instinct and flat out disappear, but that's not what he did.

The plot isn't messy, but the way it's been presented is confusing in how it tries to make a point or a comment everywhere. The book isn't boring per se, but the topics are dry and the ideas haven't been put across succinctly enough. At some point, I felt that the names didn't matter. The characters and who they represented did. In the story, there's a point between activism, justice and economic growth. Such an irony. I don't know if the anti-globalization protests have subsided. Replacing the phrase and idea would be a sort of economic protectionism isn't it?

And yet, there was something distinctly American about it all, a fundamental difference in perspective and place—in how they saw themselves in the world. And this was what made it so American—not that they felt compassion for mistreated workers three continents away, workers they had never seen or known, whose world they could not begin to understand, not that they felt guilty about their privilege, no, no that either, but that they felt the need to do something about it. That they felt they had the power to do something about it. That was what made it so American. That they felt they had the power to do something—they assumed they had that power. They had been born with it—the ability to change the world—and had never questioned its existence, an assumption so massive as to remain completely unseen. The power and the responsibility to protect the people they imagined as powerless. The poor defenseless people of the Third World. 
He felt a sudden queasy sadness. What if they knew what a real revolutionary was? How bloody is a real revolution.

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