Comic strips have the ignitability to start great discussions from a variety of topics which can reach people of all age groups. Lynda Berry’s Today’s Demon: Common Scents brings an aroma of difference with other issues surface into the atmosphere. Berry’s comic makes an attempt to prove that people must examine themselves, remove their mask and accept people as they are. Using humorous and colorful illustration seems to have been Berry’s attempt/method to alert her audience, to intensify the conversation of difference was creative. As the aroma of difference ignite there is a clear understanding that Berry’s purpose was to awake those sensitive topics that can trigger a reflection of how people must look at themselves before judging others, unmasking themselves. Berry’s message is that everyone is different; but God made them all.
Creating a dialogue among people can become difficult, especially having a discussion about acceptance, prejudice, and tolerance which are the three main words I gathered as I read Zadie Smith’s, “Speaking in Tongues” essay and Berry’s comic. This conservation will hopefully bring empathy and understanding that people are different; therefore, accept them the way they are and stop judging people because of the way they appear; this is what we all can do to support one another. This tolerance can create a change within that brings reason to unmask, to unmask what has been hidden, and to unmask what has been removed from the public initiating a self examination of acceptance. Smith included President Obama in her essay to show and prove that people who are creative, smart, and gifted also are human and have flaws they too try to cover up, to prevent from being exposed. Almost everyone have something to hide. Smith took a quote from President Obama’s 60 Minutes interview that displayed this mask, his mask that was removed maybe mistakenly, but removed and showed the President’s confidence in himself; some might call it cocky, or too sure of himself. Whatever we might call it, it is his character, it is him. “Hey, I’m not stupid, man, that’s why I’m president,” something it’s hard to imagine him doing even three weeks earlier.”(4) Smith stressed that the President would not have made that comment while being Senator Obama because he had to remain masked, and not show his true character nor say anything pertaining to “I” or “I am” to win the Presidential Race to the White House. During that interview Smith also noted how casually and culturally his mood was which concluded that he found comfort and the ability to exhale due to his great victory. Obama’s victory allowed him to display how proud, and how intelligent he was, and choosing not masking his hard work is considered honorable, I guess. President Obama comment was aimed to all that doubted him, his win to the white house showed how smart he really is. Berry’s comic speaks of unmasking as well when Little Berry mention of her family’s unknown smell. The girl was unsure of her family’s difference, but what she noticed was that others had issues and was concerned about it. Almost all the homes she visited made an attempt to cover up smells with a blanket of aroma. Her house wasn’t covering up, or masking who they are. “Of course the biggest mystery of all was my own house. I couldn’t smell it at all. I didn’t think it had a smell, which was strange considering all that went on there.” (54) She had to take a look at her family and try to examine what took place daily. Concluding that her house had the most activity and should total to a much louder smell did not make any difference to Berry, she accepted her family as is.
Having the ability to open the communication doors is a gift. This allows a dialogue to start peeling off layers of issues among people that are considered different. Different is not a bad word, it just means not the same. Speaking different languages, eating different food, or born in another country does not make people inhuman. Obtaining knowledge and having the versatility is an achievement many wished they have. “Being many-voiced may be a complicated gift for a president, but in poets it is a pure delight in need of neither defense nor explanation.” (9) Smith and Berry had many voices. Smith knew it was different and was proud of her gift and was able to utilize it while working creatively. Berry figure it was normal and did not considered it different until one of her friends brought it to her attention; informing her of her family’s difference. “N’ako, Lynda! This duran fruits smells so badly but taste so goodly! You try it! God made it! My golly! Eat! Eat!” (60) The grandma displayed much information in this quote. The different type of food, language and smell are multi voiced, multi language, and multi culture which is their world their reality.
The ending of Smith’s essay gives the impression that it was obtaining a position for all who have stayed in Dream City. Dreamers remaining in Dream City cannot accomplish anything there; therefore, there is a need for them to remove themselves from their fragile state of being and face reality by fighting for who they are and accepting themselves. A select few might be understanding and have empathy towards them but; consequently, there is a need to face the issue without hesitation. “A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it.” (10) Overcoming any issues can be difficult because of the formation that is needed; this formation is what or how they create themselves to handle obstacles. The fear of the unknown creates the hesitation, being caution is a human reaction and feeling embarrassed of the task that only you, the person must accomplished. This is very similar to Berry’s comic where the girl realizes that she is like everyone else, God made them all. This was a self assuring moment the Grandma took upon herself to provide evidence that people are similar. Having confidence and know yourself; a message from Grandma. “You know, my darling, God has made every people! And every people makes ta-ee! And every ta-ee smells bad! Ask this lady does perfume come out of her pueet? N’ako, I don’t think so darling! It is not God’s way. You tell her!” (57) Grandma was trying to show her example that everyone has their own smell, their own issues they must deal with. Nobody is perfect. Little Berry realizing that she too had an issue and that was accepting the greatness of her original family, regardless what others say. Little Berry must have been feeling confused as a child trying to piece together mature feelings and categorizing those feeling into her personal world.
Comics are an ice breaker that brings open conversation from any location ranging from a water fountain at work to a classroom full of elementary students. Berry’s comic does a great job of elevating the importance of tolerance, of acceptance and of judging others. These sensitive issues have existed for several hundred years and an attempt to unmask people with these problems with difference might result in the reduction racism. Have Berry achieved her purpose of inclusion of all races, cultures, and languages? This separation of difference might be considered as today’s demons, but due to people taking a look at them has allowed a self reflection to motivate the change.