Melany Gomez- France as Text 2019

Melany Gomez is a senior at Florida International University’s Honors College. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies and forms part of the Quantifying Biology in the Classroom program (QBIC). QBIC is a program that allows her to explore the biological sciences to a greater depth. She enjoys conducting research on​ infant development and working with children. Melany plans to graduate in Spring 2020 and would love to work in the pediatrics field, preferably as a physician. Below you will be able to find her France as Texts.

PARIS AS TEXT

To the Giant in Paris by Melany Gomez of FIU in Champ de Mars, on July 2nd2019

Let the glistening giant watch over the streets of Paris. Night after night, let the lights inspire the artists, the tourists, the citizens. Let the people gather beneath its skirt and find reassurance that France is progressive, France is ingenious, France is prosperous. In a country where ideas surge, and enlightening movements have been given birth to, you were dropped one day in the late 1880s to show the world that agricultural France had indeed become industrialized. You were a concept, you were a statement, you were much more than mere art. Though the French people’s eyes to your beauty had to adapt, it became evident that 132 years and more you would last. Now I am here, a Cuban in France, having evaded a regimen in an island that had threatened to cut my curious wings. Now I am here, walking through the streets of Paris, looking for you even in the distance. Knowing that though you’re flexible enough to move, there’s no bringing you down. Now I am here in Paris in awe with your beauty, in awe with the diversity of the people in the streets below you. I have seen many from various places like Asia, Europe, and even the Americas coexist with each other, celebrating their differences. I am here in Paris, knowing that though this city has seen many battles, (starting with its first inhabitants the Gauls, then the Romans, the revolutionaries, and the Nazis) with you by their side they can unite. Your iron figure seduces the mind of whoever thinks of Paris, for you are a symbol of this modern city. Here is to Gustave Eiffel for engineering his tower, here is to the glistening giant.VERSAILLES AS TEXT

VERSAILLES AS TEXT

The Latone  Fountain  in the Gardens of Versailles – Photo by Melany Gomez

Greatness At The Expense Of The Poor by Melany Gomez of FIU in Versailles, on July 7th,2019

Gold gates, marble walls, and magnificent gardens are all signs of the wealth of a king, or better yet, his kingdom. Through the renovations completed at Versailles, Louis XIV had planned to enrich the country’s culture and overall standing in Europe. A king’s wealth, of course, is originated from a country’s monetary funds, and so while more money went to renovations less went to feed the common people. Louis XIV, or the sun king, constructed one of the most amazing palaces and gardens in Europe where he celebrated his reign and himself. This was reflected all throughout Versailles including in his gardens where he built fountains such as Bassin de Latone where he showed off his mighty power, threatening that the gods would punish anyone who dares cross him. He achieved part of the Versaille we see today by expanding his father’s old hunting lodge in Versailles through various building campaigns; and even then, he was not the only king who expanded on it. Although it is now a major historical place and a massive tourist attraction calling people from all over the world to it, one wonders if the sacrifice made to build it was justified.

When thinking of the monarchies in France, where the king had the ultimate power, it is easy to overlook the peasants who scarcely supported the growth of France before the revolution. Perhaps, by keeping the eyes closed to their misery and the level of insignificant cultural input they provided to the growing country, one can justify the misuse of funds: from bettering the lives of the many to bettering the appearance and comfort of a hunting lodge and making it ready for its king. Looking at the impact Versailles has had in the history of France today, it is no doubt Louis XIV’s vision for the lodge was in many ways ingenious and, in those times, justified. Nevertheless, I think of the world today, where civilizations are not enriched by building great monuments if its people are starving. I stand in the hall of mirrors and walk through the “Hameau de la Reine” and though I am able to appreciate their beauty, I think of the world today, where the education of the masses has inspired revolutions and the input of its people has enriched the country’s culture more than the input of a current king or a president. I believe in today’s world an expense like that would not be justified. Because today, our president represents the people, but he is not the people, we are the people and we build the future.

IZIEU AS TEXT

A Veil Through Time by Melany Gomez of FIU in Maison d’Izieu, on July 12th,2019

Walking through the veil between the past and the present, through the Maison d’Izieu, is a powerful feeling. Within the first few steps, as you breathe in the fresh air of the once Italian occupied zone, you become enchanted by the panoramic view of the mountains of the Chartreuse and the Northern Vercors. However, despite the beauty of this place, there is a lingering feeling that a great injustice has been committed. As the history of this colony is revealed to me, I can see through the veil and I can hear children playing around the Maison, I can feel the emotions with which they write to their loved ones, and I can see them sitting at their desks, grasping tightly to the notion of what a normal childhood would pertain. The Maison d’Izieu Memorial is a place of remembrance. A place to ponder on how racism can cloud the mind to the extent of negating children the right to their humanity and justify the execution of innocents. Nevertheless, although it is important to remember the atrocious act against the 44 Jewish children and 7 adults on April 6th of 1944, it is just as important to keep in our memories that Maison d’Izieu Memorial is also a remembrance of courage during the darkest of times. It is important to remember how during a time when hope had vanished in the hearts of many, there were courageous people like Sabine and Miron Zlatin who refused to surrender to a spiteful cause and founded a haven on Earth where persecuted children could find refuge. Walking through the veil between the past and the present is a powerful feeling. After a journey like this, you take with you the responsibility to protect the future. As you learn about the courage of others, the blinding hatred of an irrational movement, and the innocence of the persecuted, the need to remain vigilant is implanted in your heart, and once it is embedded there is no escaping this feeling. 

LYON AS TEXT

The Hidden Passage by Melany Gomez of FIU in Lyon, on July 8th ,2019

I will remain free, 
Though I know they are coming for me,
Let the South know I’m here,
Let the North know of me,
Yet don’t tell the German ears.
 
They think they know your city,
Tell them Lyon hides beyond its streets,
Tell them Barbie will have to look beyond what he sees,
 
When in 1942 he dares come for you, 
Know I am here for you,
I will hide your men for you,
I’ll remain the center of the resistance for you.
 
I know Lyon will be mistreated,
But I stand with Jean Moulin,
Because the Nazis will be defeated.
 
And when in 1943, 
he dies from what Barbie did to him,
I will remain hopeful,
I will take care of all your grim.
 
Remember,
I am here because of this country’s history,
You are not a German town,
You are French,
You will not be shut down.
 
When of Montluc I hear,
I’ll regret that I wasn’t near,
To help our people escape.
 
And though I know these are dark times,
That does not mean our movement will die,
We will continue to fight,
Because what the Vichy government did wasn’t right,
 
We do not surrender,
The French are not cowards,
We are brave,
We will bring justice to the offender,
And put them in their graves.
 
Let the resistance use me as their hideaway,
Keep me a secret and I’ll protect you,
I am here because this country is French,
Do not let them take that away,
And your city will protect you. 
 
And when the years pass,
Tell them I hid you well,
And though we’ve been through hell,
Tell them that free I remain.

NORMANDY AS TEXT

He was a boy once by Melany Gomez of FIU in Normandy, on July 21st, 2019

It was a quiet night in July while I was residing in Paris, I closed my eyes for a second and in my subconscious, I saw him. Deep in a strange place I was, my feet were wet, my skin was cold, and on a beach were us both. 

He said, “this is where I landed the last day I was on this Earth, this is Normandy France,” and in Omaha beach were us both. 

I said, “I see you, Jimmie W Monteith, although this is the last place on Earth that your memory can recall, I see you, and know there’s more to your life than what we saw in these lands.”

He looked at me and smile, he had remembered the past. 

He said, “I’ve been a hero for so long I almost forgot I was a boy once.” 

We almost forgot he was a boy once! 

But it was good I had remembered because at the end of these words a whole story unfolded that caused me to be overwhelmed. He saw himself in the courts playing varsity football and basketball, training hard every morning and night so that on him his teammates could rely. He remembered his graduation from high school in 1937 and how his mom probably cried. It was incredible, he was a boy once. 

He went to college and everything. He majored in mechanical engineering and was in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI) for two years. But even during that time he knew there was a greater mission for his life so he could live without regrets, and so he became a member of K Battery in the Corps of Cadets. 

He said, “I was drafted into the army on October 1941, I was more than happy to come to my country’s aid and to defend the world from the Germans who were getting out of hand.”

And he told me that I ought to remember that this was also the year when the first United States Navy ship was fired upon by a German submarine on September 4th, and when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, altogether these were crucial events that drew the United States into World War II. I, of course, wondered if these were also crucial events that drew him to the war.

He continued to tell me about his training and with a great deal of modesty, he said, “I remember my mind and soul was devoted to serve and so while I was in Camp Croft South Carolina for basic training I was promoted to corporal and applied for officer training. That’s just what my country deserved.” 

He was accepted of course and was sent to Fort Benning in Georgia where he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant in 1942. Moreover, was later transferred to Fort McClellan in Alabama where he helped train the 15th Battalion. 

“The men in the 15th Battalion were young and courageous and ready to sacrifice everything, which was a sentiment I think we all shared,” he said. He continued to tell me that in 1943 he was transferred to the 1st Infantry Division during which time he is promoted to 1st lieutenant. Later that year he is transferred to Britain to prepare for Operation Overlord which was the codename for the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944 where he becomes platoon commander at L company off the 16th Infantry regiment. 

Once he was finished, he looked all around us as if to take in all the memories attached to this beach and said, “So that brings us to this place, Omaha beach, the last place I will ever know.”

We were standing by a hill, where the last moments of his life had unfolded on June 6th, 1944, and so I asked him what I have always wondered about soldiers and about those who have faced death.

I said, “Were you afraid?”

And he took a deep breath and stared far towards the beach and said, “I much rather let my actions speak for me.”

Suddenly, we were both submerged under his memories and I could see what he saw and what he lived. 

Bullets were flying, buzzing through the air like deadly bees who could stop your heart with only one sting. A violent mayhem of machine guns, invading the peace of the beach, threatened the lives of all men who dared land there. Bombs were dropping unexpectedly around me and before I knew what had happened, I saw an arm rush away from its body as if it had finally found freedom in that hectic war. The chaos, the violence, the deaths and the sounds. Oh, the excruciating sounds of guns, of explosives, of people, oh the agonizing sounds of war. All of this awoke in me the innate desire to run, to hide, to escape this torment, and while I was looking for an exit out of this horrendous memory, I saw him once again. Jimmy W Monteith was guiding his men through the ferocious man-made storm of bullets and bombs. He was completely exposed, completely vulnerable but still ensuring his mission was complete. I see him guiding them towards the immediate surroundings of the beach and he manages to seize a thin strip of land. He then guides two tanks through the seized area to find a favorable support position. He does this all while exposing himself to open fire, while the bombs were falling near him, and yet not once did I see him flinch. Thanks to his guidance, both tanks are able to cross minefields without incidents, and they helped destroy several enemy positions. Following orders from his unit commander he then leads his soldier to climb a slope where a German fortified was and thanks to his great strategy and bravery they are able to seize it and take some Germans prisoners. I see him moving back and forth from station to post to ensure the good performance of his men, without a second to rest. However, the Germans manage to encircle his position and while still leading his men he is fatally shot by enemy fire. There I see him die on June 6th, 1944. It was hard to believe he was a boy once. 

I am suddenly pulled away from this scene and with tears in my eyes I look at him and say,

“I have seen you bravely become vulnerable to enemy fire for the sake of your mission and your men without turning back or hiding away. So valiantly so that if you were ever afraid, I will never know it. I saw you sacrifice yourself so that we could all live in a world where we are not persecuted for our religion, our sex, or our race. Your sacrifice left the legacy that we as members of the human race will not allow our world to become blinded by hatred, that every woman men and child has the right to live freely. Your sacrifice ensured that I today do not have to worry about war and can instead focus on learning about biology and pursuing a career in the healthcare field. Your sacrifice made us free.”

Without thinking I gave him a hug not knowing it would be my last, and sort of abruptly, akin to the way he left this Earth, I was pulled out of my dream and my eyes opened to see a Paris that is inherently free. As I look at my Paris I say, “thank you, Jimmy W Monteith, and though you have been a hero for so long I will never forget you were a boy once.”

References:

6, B., 1944, N., –, C., & of, J. (2019). Jimmie W. Monteith – Medal of Honor – Omaha Beach. Retrieved 28 July 2019, from https://www.dday-overlord.com/en/battle-of-normandy/cities/colleville-sur-mer/jimmie-w-monteith

Cox, C. (2019). Virginia Tech Magazine | In Retrospect. Retrieved 28 July 2019, from https://www.vtmag.vt.edu/sum09/retrospect.html

Normandy Presentation

Jimmie W Monteith as I read about the events of your life, know that I see you. I see you in the hearts of every Thomas Jefferson High School graduate of the year 1931 who cheered loudly for you, their favorite football and basketball varsity player. I see you training hard every morning and night to ensure your team can rely on you to bring that victory home. And finally, when the time comes to validate those fours great years of your teenage life I see you walking on that stage and getting your diploma in the year 1931 as you smile to the crowd lifting your fist in the air, proud of what you have achieved.

I see you, Jimmie W Monteith, picking your mechanical engineering major in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and becoming a member of the K Battery Corps of Cadets and the Richmond Sectional Club. Answering your call even before you are needed, I see you Jimmie Monteith, cultivating the values of your courageous country and when the war starts I see you Jimmie Monteith joining the Army in 1941 being promoted multiple times. I see you as a 2nd lieutenant, as a first lieutenant and even as platoon commander at L Company of the 16th Infantry regiment.

As a commander, I see you Jimmie Monteith, one who under a storm of bullets and bombs that would petrify even the strongest soldier, fights bravely and exposes himself several times to enemy fire to guide his men without worrying about his own personal safety. I see you, Jimmie Montieth, storming the immediate surroundings of the Omaha beach and managing to seize a thin strip of land, not because you want it for yourself but rather because your country needs it. Because your men need it.

I see you guiding two tanks through the seized area and across minefields to find favorable support position to destroy your enemy, not because you need it but rather because your country needs it’s. With a selfless soul and a courageous heart I see you do this all while exposing yourself to open fire. I see you As you follow orders from your unit commander leading your soldiers to climb a slope where you seize a German fortified. And even though the bullets buzz all through the air threatening you with their deadly sting, I see you become vulnerable to enemy fire, moving back and forth from station to post to ensure the good performance of your men.

And during your last hour, when the Germans encircle your position and greet you with a fatal shot, I see you not laying in that field on June 6th, 1944 but rather in the world that your sacrifice helped forge. I see you in the Towns who are now free in France as I am able to experience their culture, I see you in their people who with grateful memories wave the American flag next to their French flags. I see you in the world I live in today where your sacrifice has left a legacy, the legacy that we won’t stand by and watch as the world becomes blinded by hatred or petrified by fear. I see you in my freedom to study without having to worry about a government persecuting me or threatening my life. I see you as I learn about the story of your life and in our world’s history, because even though you were a man in your eyes you are a hero in ours.

PERE LACHAISE

To the Lovers by Melany Gomez of FIU in Pere Lachaise, on July 26 2019

Background information on Heloise and Abelard:

Through this summary of their lives and love, I aspire to educate the reader on the clandestine romance that existed between Heloise and Abelard; one composed of sacrifices and tragedy which inspired generations of authors after them. Following this section of background information, you will find my reflection as well as a creative piece inspired by my differences and similarities with these characters. 

Let’s commence with Heloise, she was a very intelligent and a reputed scholar, most people would argue she was one of the most educated women of her time. She studied Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and was especially gifted in writing and reading. Very little is known about her immediate family however what we do know is that she was living in Paris with her uncle Fulbert who was a canon of Notre Dame. Heloise is also said to have been a very beautiful woman which captivated Abelard. 

On the other hand, Abelard was a son of a knight and he came from a minor noble French family. He is said to have been a very quick study from an early age and with the encouragement of his father he started studying the liberal arts and excelled in philosophy. His studies took him many places including Paris where he studied in the cathedral school of Notre Dame de Paris in the year 1100 which was before the current cathedral was built. 

Here he was taught by William of Champeaux and he soon he outshined his master which led to a rivalry between them. He becomes a very famous teacher of philosophy and other disciplines and in around 1115 he moves in with Fulbert and Heloise saying that he could not afford to live by himself while studying, and in return, he tells Fulbert he would teach his niece in medicine and other subjects taught in higher education. 

Although he was her teacher the two fall in love and have a very lustful and passionate secret affair. As soon as Fulbert finds out about this he separates them however they continue to meet in secret and exchange hundreds of passionate letters until Heloise becomes pregnant. Their relationship alone was something that would bring a lot of shame to Abelard giving his position as a teacher as well as on Heloise who was supposed to remain pure. Abelard decides to hide Heloise in Brittany where his family lived until she had the baby. 

When Fulbert found out about the pregnancy he becomes furious and is convinced Abelard ruined his niece. Abelard proposes to marry Heloise but she refuses because she believed marriage would only disgrace him and impede his work. Moreover, she also did not believe in marriage and as she said in one of her letters to him “I preferred love to wedlock, freedom to a bond”. However, Abelard manages to convince her to return to Paris and they get married in secret. Fulbert is furious with Abelard for ruining his reputation as, thus he starts spreading the news of their marriage which threatens the safety of Heloise. Abelard to protect her, sends her to become a nun in the convent of Argenteuil. Fulbert believes Abelard is merely trying to get rid of Heloise by making her a nun and so he sends a group of his friends to Abelard’s room and they castrate him. 

After the trauma castration brought to Abelard he becomes a monk in the Abbey of St Denis. Heloise becomes a prioress in her convent, but the place becomes taken over by Abbey of St Denis and all the nuns have to leave in 1129. However, Abelard arranges for them to enter the Oratory of the Paraclete which was established in 1122 and Heloise becomes abbess here, meaning she is their superior. She still writes letters to Abelard in which she confesses that although they think of her as pure now she stills thinks of their time together and although she knows she should repent for her sins she misses what they once had. Now only seven of their letters survive and they were so beautifully written that they inspired the works of many authors and are considered a literary gem. 

Reflection through a Letter to the lovers:

To the lovers Heloise and Abelard,

Heloise, you were a woman beyond your time. During the Middle Ages, the education women like you obtained was enough to prepare them for a life as a wife or mother. However, you saw what we now see, you saw the incredible potential within you to grasp complex concepts and languages without fear of any limitation that could be accredited to your gender alone. You were an incredibly well-educated woman, some may argue the most educated woman of your time. Though there is no evidence to back my claim, I dare say, once again without intending it and without ever knowing it, you were laying stepping stones for the incredible women after you who inspired and created the feminist movement. A movement that fought for my right to study freely any career and subject that calls my name. But what’s exceptional to me, is that you did not study to prove that you and others like you could, you studied because you were genuinely curious about the world and what it had to offer: without any other agendas than to elevate yourself intellectually. Dare I say where would I be without Heloise?

Through this curiosity, you not only explored your gift of writing and reading but also met the love of your life, Abelard the great philosopher. Abelard, you were an intellectual, the fruit of the great cathedral school of Notre-Dame de Paris. Your philosophical ideas not only influenced the catholic religion but also to the way we remember philosophy. You helped establish the dominance and the philosophical authority of Aristotle through the completion of Organon which gradually led to the introduction of Aristotle in schools before which Plato was the authority in this field. You were one of the first philosophers to instill in our society through your philosophy that language alone cannot determine our reality and that physics is our way to better understand our world; given as how he was so fascinated by Aristotle’s work it is possible his support for physics as a better explanation of the world might have stemmed from his studies of Aristotelian physics. Is it possible that the influence of a religious philosopher of the 12th century is the reason why I can type in this computer and able to live in a technologically modern world? Although it has been centuries since he was alive, the support of such a famous philosopher of his time to the less accepted idea that science could explain our world would’ve helped spread this way of thinking and made a path for the more revolutionary Enlightenment movement which changed our world in the 18th century. Dare I say where would I be without Abelard?

Your clandestine love and impeccable letters are a literary treasure of France. Through your daring romance, you have inspired authors like Madama de Lafayette, Laclos, Rousseau and Dominique Aury. To you, we owe the development of these great writers who were able to shape generations well past your century and up to mine. One of your most faithful admirers, Rousseau, was also a great figure during the Enlightenment period and through his work Julie, ou la nouvelle Heloise, he explored themes that were essential for this movement such as autonomy and moral values. Given that the Enlightenment movement inspired the birth of a world where men and women have their rights protected, I dare say, without intending it and without ever knowing it, you have shaped the free world I live in today. I dare say, where would I be without the love of Abelard and Heloise?

Yours sincerely,

Melany Gomez

Reflection through a poem to the lovers:
 
We are different you and me
I will never know the sacrifices you endured,
And I do not worry about being pure, 
Yet, I care deeply about my education,
Because in knowledge resides our liberation.
 
We are different you and me
I don’t come from a wealthy family,
And my love life has yet to be a calamity,
Yet, my studies have cost me plenty,
And for shelter, on others I rely even past twenty.
 
We are different you and me
I do not hide my love from the world,
and my letters are not a literary pearl, 
Yet, for my lover I’d sacrifice everything,
Without him asking for a thing
 
Are we different you and me?
You didn’t want to marry and then you did,
I have bent my arm before and even my knee,
Yet, what was your childhood like, where is your family?
There is much about you I don’t know
While about Abelard is the contrary,
 
Are we different you and me?
While others wonder if you were twenty-seven or seventeen,
I wonder if you had any dreams before you let love intervene.
Yet, I know you were educated in medicine 
And I am also interested in that discipline 
 
We all share things you and me,
And are different in more ways than we can see
Yet, there’s much I don’t know about you,
And even more you’ll never know about me.

References:

Snell, M. (2019). Retrieved 27 July 2019, from https://www.thoughtco.com/peter-abelard-profile-1788349c

Science, L. (2019). What Was the Enlightenment?. Retrieved 27 July 2019, from https://www.livescience.com/55327-the-enlightenment.html

Pak, E. (2019). When Women Became Nuns to Get a Good Education. Retrieved 27 July 2019, from https://www.history.com/news/women-education-medieval-nuns-church

Nehring, C. (2019). Heloise & Abelard: Love Hurts. Retrieved 28 July 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/13/books/review/heloise-abelard-love-hurts.html

Lombardi, E. (2019). The Great and Tragic Medieval Love Story of Abelard and Heloise. Retrieved 28 July 2019, from https://www.thoughtco.com/abelard-and-heloise-735128

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