The Power of Repetition

When a song first plays on the radio, you form an opinion on it. Based on the genre of music, you may love its sound. You could also hear a song for the first time and decide, that song is not for me! Either way, when a song first plays, you form views on it. As time goes on and the radio continues to play the song, your once strong opinions on it may fade. Sure, you might not have originally loved the tune, but now that it’s played so many times, you aren’t that bothered by it. In fact, your opinions on it may start to settle and become less defined. Repetition has changed your perception.  

While reading the novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett, Not Sidney has to repeatedly deal with people’s confusion over his name. Not only does Not Sidney’s name include the negative word “not”, but he also shares a portion of his name with the famous, Sidney Poitier. These two factors combined spark confusion within the people Not Sidney meets. In the beginning of the novel, Not Sidney goes out of his way to correct people over his name. For instance, early in the novel, Not Sidney restates his name to Dr. Gunter, who he seeks for assistance after being sexually harassed by a teacher. He introduces himself saying, “My name is Not Sidney Poitier.” Dr. Gunter finds this to be a joke, and continues by asking again, “Now, what is your name?” In which Not Sidney replies again, “Not Sidney Poitier. My name is Not Sidney Poitier.” (Everett, 41) Over time, Not Sidney becomes less and less heated over peoples’ inability to understand his name.  Near the end of the novel, Not Sidney begins to accept the name “Sidney” and even introduces himself to as “Poitier.” For instance, when Diana, a server in Smuteye, asks Not Sidney of his name he responds, “Sidney” and follows that with, “Sidney Poitier.” (Everett, 183) The repetition of people confusing his name leads to Not Sidney’s acceptance of defeat. Rather than explaining his true name, Not Sidney decides to settle for a normalized version and to avoid conflict.   

The strength of repetition is not only emphasized in Everett’s novel, but is apparent in modern politics. On Monday our class was introduced to some heavy topics, with the occasional cat or dog video to cheer up our spirits. After watching videos on racist memorabilia and Nazi Germany, Professor McCoy showed us two unique forms of art. The first, was a poem titled, “The Gun Joke” and the second, an acapella song, “Would You Harbor Me?” Although every piece that we were shown relates to repetition, I believe that this concept connected most to the poem, “The Gun Joke.”  

“The Gun Joke”, written by Jamaal May, draws on an important and unfortunate topic in politics today: public shootings. People are shocked when they hear of new incidents involving guns. The opening line of the “The Gun Joke” writes, “It’s funny, she says, how many people are shocked by this shooting and the next and next and the next.” May explains that this feeling of shock is rather “funny” because shootings are such a common occurrence. How are people shocked when shootings are repeated so often? Since 2015, there have been eighty-two recorded school shootings. Many of these shootings have occurred this past year. In addition to school shootings, places of worship, such as synagogues, temples, and churches, are often targeted places for public shootings. Very recently, eleven people were found dead due to a gunman’s attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The repetition of these events desensitizes people and their reactions. The public plays their role of acting shocked, but we know that more shootings are inevitably on their way. The more they repeat, the less shocked we are. In the third and final stanza, May writes, “When she says it’s funny she means funny as in crazy and crazy as in this shouldn’t happen.” I agree with May, in that these shootings should not continue to reoccur. The repetition of these events has normalized the violence. Our society needs to break from this repetition.   

 Repetition is a very powerful concept. Repetition can change your opinion on a song. Repetition can enforce the main argument in an essay. Repetition can numb your feelings about school shootings. Repetition can cause you to stop caring what people refer to you as. Repetition is a very powerful concept.

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