The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

‘The Spirit catches you and you Fall Down’ chronicles the story of a family and a collision between two cultures. T follows the story of a refugee family and their interactions with the Californian health care systems. There is a clash between a small county hospital and the protagonist family in the novel. Lee, Hmong native is diagnosed with epilepsy. However, due to the strict adherence of the family to their tradition and a misunderstanding between them and the doctors, she does not get the required medical attention for her condition. The book centers on the dichotomy between Hmong’s perceived spiritual factors and America’s perceived scientific factors.

The author narrates the events of the narrative in a unique manner giving the audience an in-depth look at the culture, customs and history of the Hmong culture. It also gives an analysis of America’s involvement in different wars. The immigration ease and status of refugees and has an analysis of discrimination and assimilation in the society.

There are key issues in the story that are purely psychological and involve social functioning. The lee family had its own beliefs and traditions; beliefs that prevented them from allowing their daughter treatment the scientific American way. Being refugees, they also felt the need and urgency to fit into the societal functions of the time, but the natives did not understand. They were discriminated upon based on the fact that they were not natives, and did not have an equal and fair chance of participation in the societal functions. In my opinion, the treatment that the Lee family got from the society was cruel and unwelcoming. However, they should have heeded to the advice of the doctors and treated their daughter’s disease to ensure that she had a long, health life. It was evident that Lee was suffering from a disease for which they had no cure. Allowing doctors to treat her effectively was a sound decision they should have made. Also, the society can be cruel and uncouth to individuals who are not natives, and have a different set of traditions and beliefs.

The doctors and the family could have handled things differently by coming to an understanding and finding a cure to the ailment that troubled their daughter. Had they come to an understanding sooner, there could have been no casualties from the complications that the disease caused. The family could also have laid aside their traditions and the issues they thought were against their culture, and given their daughter the best medical attention she needed, this would have ensured that she remained healthy and strong.

Having lived in the US alone, and not much travel, I have to acknowledge I do not have much contact with different cultures. It is saddening to witness that a culture should be so rooted in their beliefs that they have no room for other individual’s opinion. I understand that dissimilar cultures have differing beliefs, but I have never witnessed the extent to which these beliefs influence their lives and activities. I have never come into contact with a culture that does not allow the work of modern science on its citizens, simply because it is taboo and against these beliefs. I was stupefied by the events that transpired in the narrative, partly because I believe that the decisions they made were illogical and unrealistic. On the contrary, it was an educative experience because I got to understand some of the different beliefs and opinions of the different cultures that constitute the society.

I was sad, dumbfounded and pitiful towards the daughter. The sad bit was the family had misconceptions about medical dosages, and they lacked belief in the hospital’s ability to cure their daughter of the disease that was troubling her. Their misunderstanding with the medical professionals who held the key to the treatment of their daughter was also causing sadness.  However, it was on lee that I felt most pity. It is my conviction that no individual should be so subject to tradition that their survival and livelihood are jeopardized.

Reading the novel reminds me of the extent to which dogma has plagued the society. This is a disease that has plagued society today, where individuals simply believe without questioning. There are numerous aspects of the society that involve instances in which individuals do not want to question a phenomenon, or are too scared to ask any questions. The most common aspect is religion. Society has been conditioned to believe, without asking; all there is to know about religion. Anyone who asks any questions or needs clarification on an issue pertaining to religion is viewed in a negative light by those individuals perceived to be deeply religious.

This reading has changed my views in that I am more understanding of different individuals whose cultural background differs from mine. I am more accepting of the manner with which they reason, and I try to understand the basis of some of their decisions. They might be different from mine in a significant way, but a reading of the text has taught me to respect their opinions and choices. It is vital to contend with the choices that other individuals make, partly because they have the right to make them, and also because we might not understand the factors behind these choices.

The manner with which the Hmong fought with different people to claim sovereignty over their land plays a votal role in shaping their culture. This is because the values that were instilled in the natives during that era were the values that they passed onto the younger generations. This is an indication of the precision with which they follow their principles and values. It is a tumultuous history they went through, and it is one that has shaped the current society of the natives. Though they were immigrants, the Hmong did not abandon their views and traditions for those of the society in which they had recently settled.

The most fundamental duties and obligations of the Hmong generations were to keep their values and principles intact. They would then pass these principles and practices to the younger generations. This was in an attempt not to lose their native and original identity. It was a society with unique cultural practices, and ensuring that the western, modern society does not erode their core values and principles. American doctor’s most essential obligation is to ensure that all members of the society, whether natives or immigrants are in top notch health, and all their ailments have been treated effectively and successfully. It was the belief of the doctors that the healing power of modern medicine surpasses any traditional medicine or beliefs that individuals might have.

Lee’s reluctance to give Lia her medicine invokes a lot of emotion in me because she denies her daughter the right of life. She her refusal to give Lia the medicine that could cure her of the disease that troubles her is unnerving and unsettling. She has denied her daughter the basic right of participation in the society and the power to heal from a disease that possibly has its cure in modern medicine. To be a good doctor is to provide the right treatment to one’s patients and ensure that the dosage taken is adequate for the ailments troubling them. Good doctors make follow-ups on their patients to see if they have taken the medicine as directed, as well as check up on the progress of their recovery.

To be a good patient is to provide for one’s children selflessly and ensure that they have the best life imaginable. They use intuition and instinct to provide comfort and care that their children need. I think life is more powerful than the soul. The soul is the conscience of a human being, but without life, it would be of no use. Life is the channel through which we all live, and the soul is its guiding factor. Therefore, both are vital in their own manner, but life surpasses the vitality of the soul.

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