photo: DHS Office of Inspector General, June 10 2019

Will they hear the fireworks?

The children, shivering under a mylar blanket in a cold cell. Will they hear them?

This is America. We are in a place, right now, where we can’t say that our darkest days are in our past.

And it feels sick. It feels shocking. Unbelievable.

But it’s real. Our country is no stranger to hurting innocent people.

We are a nation of contradictions. We are fighters. A nation of liberators and emancipators. But we are also a nation that is soft-bellied and apathetic, practiced at not seeing the things we don’t want to see. Life can look perfect if we ignore what’s happening just outside of our peripheral vision.

Keep your head down. Sip your cold beer. Check the mail. Nod at your neighbor. Smile. Everything is fiiiiiiine. Indifference is one helluva drug.

We are one part Gilead, one part Stepford. The contrast is startling. The similarities disturbing.

Right now, there are children being ripped from their parents arms. Right now, there are children who have been lost by our government. Who will never see their families again. Our country, the one we celebrate today, isn’t even sure how many children we’ve lost after taking them from their families at the border. Right now, people are being stripped of their life-saving medications by Border Patrol. They are being given frozen, unthawed food to eat. They are being packed into cages and given no basic necessities. No shower. No soap. No toothpaste. It’s a lot easier to dehumanize people who look dirty and smell. Children are being subjected to trauma. Neglect. Separated from their families. Being purposefully tortured. A physician who toured the centers said they “felt worse than jail,” and “the conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities.”

Children are being deliberately punished, traumatized, and tortured. 

By America.

Does that give you pause? Does that make you uncomfortable? Too strong a word? LIFELONG TRAUMA is what we are inflicting upon these children. The kind of trauma that inhibits brain development. That will leave lasting, devastating psychological damage. If trauma that lasts until you die isn’t torture, I don’t know what is.

I believe in calling something what it is. You see, I am tied to words. Words are oxygen. Truth. Record. Words matter. And I have no patience for moderating words to appease the comfortable. Especially when innocent people, innocent parents and children are being tortured and caged and imprisoned.

This is what our country is doing, right now.

Will they hear our celebration?

What kind of nation wraps itself in patriotic merrymaking while simultaneously locking children in cages? What kind of country celebrates it’s freedom while for-profit camps make bank off of the bodies of vulnerable people? What kind of country tears families apart and abuses people for seeking asylum? Seeking asylum is a legal process that is allowed by international and federal law. Crossing the border at unofficial entry points is a misdemeanor. For this we put them in cages and and pay private contractors an estimated $775/day per person. To abuse and neglect them. To house them like animals. To tell them to drink from the toilet if they’re thirsty. To let kids die. To put children in solitary confinement. To physically and sexually abuse them. What kind of country employs guards who laugh at scared and sick immigrants? Who mock distraught parents. Who lie. Are they just following orders? Does it matter when committing human rights abuses? If the walls could talk in Nuremberg…

It’s happening on our watch. With our money.

And outside the gates, patriotic celebration. The pomp and circumstance of a “great” country.

Who are we if we celebrate our greatness while ignoring the horrors we are committing right now? This very minute.

Are we the nation who stormed the beaches and liberated the world from fascism? Or are we the nation that embraces it because automation has taken jobs and we are fearful? Are we the nation that has guided others to democracy or are we the nation that suppresses the vote and removes people from voter rolls?

Are we the country that peddles in performative patriotism? It’s easy to slap on a flag pin and place our hands over our hearts and say GodBlessAmerica. It’s easy to say you love America. It’s the easiest fucking thing you can do in this country.

And when you say it during a time like this it’s pathetic and weak. Do better. Demand better from our country. From our leaders. Stop giving in to the weak impulses of someone who’s lived a soft life. And stop accepting it from the people we’re paying to govern our country.

Are we the country of freedom fighters who sat at lunch counters and marched across bridges and refused to give up bus seats? Are we the country that fought for the right for women to vote and went on hunger strikes and endured forced feedings and demanded equality in the boardroom and the bedroom? Are we the country that stared down water cannons to protect native lands? The country that fought at Stonewall and fought for the right to love and marry and live and dress and be. Are we the country that creates art? That values difference and variety and ingenuity or are we the country that wants to regurgitate and recycle the same content?

Are we the country of Never Again and not on my watch?

Are we the humanitarian who gives water to thirsty refugees?

Or are we the border guard who pours out water left to save lives in the desert?

Which America do you want to be? One of grittiness and determination and boldness? One that stands up to tyranny, whether it’s at home or on foreign shores? Or one that operates on fear? That is so scared and weak that it locks up children and rips families apart? One that clings to the past and only feels comfortable when old white men are pulling the levers of power? One that’s scared of shaking the status quo? Too fearful to even ask who the status quo benefits? Hint: It’s not you. Or you. Or… you.

Will they hear us?

Will they hear the fireworks while they take turns lying down because it’s standing room only in the cage? While they wonder where their parents or children are. While they shiver in the cold. While the coil up in pain from dehydration and starvation and illness. Will they wonder what kind of people hold parades and dance in the streets while other people suffer the unthinkable?

Will they hear our celebration or our fury? 

You tell me.

 

 

 

rendered

You seem really angry.

It wasn’t really a statement. Or a question. It was an accusation. It was two days after the election. Two days after we elected an openly racist man who bragged about sexually assaulting women. My anger had apparently ruffled my acquaintance.

Yeah. I was angry. Livid. Sad. Terrified.

But I didn’t say any of that. I offered a smile. I tilted my head and I placated and soothed. My voice curled around words that I didn’t mean. My head screamed at him in anger Why are you NOT angry?

My soft voice and my traitorous smile were on autopilot. I blame my conditioning, but that’s really just a cop out.

We were raised on polite and nice. The Golden Rule and “how do you do’s.” We were taught that politics and religion should never be discussed in polite company.

Our politics are shrouded in coded language. Abuses are minimized to appease our delicate sensitivities. Our history is whitewashed and the unseemly parts of our country’s past have been snuffed out. We place niceness and civility at a premium over humanity and reality.  We’ve told ourselves lies about who we are for so long that some of us are only now waking up to who we really are.

Our “Greatness” is a facade. False bravado. A lie.

And we are angry. We are witnessing corruption and hate and Nazis marching in the streets and walking the halls of the West Wing. We’ve been told to calm down. Our jokes are crude, our language too coarse, our response too rude. What happened to civility? What happened to being nice? You seem really angry…

What they really mean is we’re making them feel uncomfortable. We’re shaking their foundation of normality. We’re holding up a mirror to things they are determined to ignore.

This premium on politeness and civility has been a tool for evil throughout history. Pedophiles and rapists are super nice while grooming their victims. Nice allows preachers to rape, priests to molest, and still hold positions of power. Nice tells children to be seen and not be heard. Keeping victims in a cage of nice and polite serves the perpetrators well. Nice is the easiest and most inconsequential thing to be. Nice people kick puppies and nice people turned in their neighbors when the gestapo came to town.

Nice is apathy. Niceness likes to act indignant in the face of incivility, entitled to pleasantries and decorum. Nice will admonish that we will hand over the election to the tyrants because tyrants will be less evil if we just act more civil, right? Civility and niceness is a tool of supremacy. Politeness in the face of atrocities is begging for more atrocities. Tyrants weaponize a nice populace. Nice will write op-eds about the loss of civility in public discourse.

There was never any civility. Just the appearance of it. We are not civilized. We just like to pretend we are.

The civilized don’t shoot unarmed citizens. The civilized don’t let a city suffer with leaden water for four years. The civilized don’t steal land from Native people and slaughter them in the name of “civilization.” The civilized don’t perform medical experiments on marginalized people. The civilized don’t steal from the poor to help the wealthy. The civilized don’t turn water cannons on native people. The civilized don’t turn away people seeking safety from countries being torn apart because of our government’s actions. The civilized don’t let thousands of people die after a hurricane. The civilized don’t lie about everything that matters and they sure as hell don’t let lies go unanswered in press conferences. The civilized don’t try to humanize white supremacists in think pieces. The civilized don’t legislate hate in the name of religious freedom. The civilized don’t try to suppress voters. The civilized aren’t afraid of the people’s voice. The civilized don’t elect racists or pussy grabbers or vote for child molesters or elect men who assault reporters. The civilized don’t put children in cages. The civilized don’t dehumanize groups of people to gin up hate and votes. The civilized don’t shrug at mass shootings. The civilized don’t place a higher priority on guns over children’s lives. The civilized don’t put children in cages. The civilized don’t impose their religious beliefs on other people. The civilized don’t let billionaires determine the future and well being of a population of people. The civilized don’t rip babies and children from their parent’s arms. The civilized don’t run a prison system that profits off of brown bodies. THE CIVILIZED DON’T PUT CHILDREN IN FUCKING CAGES.

We, the people, are choking on politeness. There’s a collective lump in our throats that we can’t swallow any longer. There will be no more sympathy for the devil and no comfort for those who aide him.

The devil puts children in cages and the devil lies to reporters every day and the devil argues about what, actually, is a cage? The devil equivocates on details to deflect from atrocity. The devil deals in false equivalencies. The devil tells you to to wait. The devil tells you to be more devoted to order than to justice, that the absence of tension is preferable to a positive peace.  The devil tells you to stay quiet and to numb your mind and the devil wants you to be easily distracted. The devil wants you to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

Fuck the devil. The devil is no match for the righteous anger of people who are awake. The devil’s got nothing on angry mothers who see children in cages. The devil has made a fatal flaw in thinking we wouldn’t care, in thinking that our love for our fellow humans is performative. The devil thought that deep down, we were all just as hateful and racist as him. The devil has never known love that will make you shake off comfort and fight. The devil has only ever fought for himself. The devil can’t fathom the fire and the fury of millions of people who have had enough of hate.

Make no mistake. Love is at the root of the incivility that elites in DC are bemoaning. Love is at the root of every protest and every rally that is spreading like wildfire across an angry nation. Love is about fighting for people who are suffering and fighting for what’s right and demanding better from our country. Love isn’t positive slogans and positive thinking and “just be happy.” Love without fight is a farce. Preaching positivity without fighting evil is a pyramid scheme of tripe. Those at the top will thrive. Those at the bottom will be crushed by their weight. The industry of positivity is profiting off of you feeling good about doing nothing of importance. The weak and the marginalized were never sheltered by good vibes. They oppressed were never freed by feel good schtick.

Stop hiding behind positive slogans.

Stop requesting politeness in a time of evil.

Stop lamenting nice when children are in cages.

Stop demanding civility when families are being torn apart.

You seem really angry.

Yeah. We are. And there will be no sympathy for the devil here. No tolerance for those who do his bidding. No shelter for those who luxuriate in safety and privilege and tell us to calm down. No consolation for those who are feeling discomfort for the first time and think that their discomfort equals oppression. Get used to harsh truth and in your face reality. We can no longer placate your feelings. You will have to learn how to self soothe in times like this.

You want civility? Then start acting civilized.

 

Turn your anger into action here.

 

“So if you meet me have some courtesy, have some sympathy and some taste. Use all your well learned politesse, or I’ll lay your soul to waste”

-The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Will we ever understand? Or is the fate of man at hand? Will we live or shall we die?

How will we ever know if we never try?”

-Lenny Kravitz, What the Fuck Are We Saying

Them.

It can mean different things. It can be people who look different. It can be people of different nations. Different cultures. People who pray to a different god. People who love differently. People who live a different lifestyle.

Them. It’s a lie. I don’t believe in it. I don’t subscribe to the cult of judgement that seems to accompany the mentality of them.

They must be savages to riot in the street.

They must have done something to deserve being shot while unarmed.

They must not be strong enough/ have enough faith/ love enough to take their own life.

They must be filthy and ignorant to be ravaged with a horrendous virus.

They must believe in an evil god to live in perpetual war.

Statements dripping in self righteousness and contempt. Statements born of fear or ignorance or shame. Or all three. But nothing written or shouted or proclaimed from such a place is ever true. These things are not uttered in an attempt to help, to discuss, to heal. To rectify or repair. No, these words and others like them are a fallacy meant to perpetuate the myth of them.

Is it comforting, the idea of them? Is it a primal mindset we have yet to outgrow?

Lately it’s been too much to take. The harshness. The shrill. It’s become deafening. The evening news has become my affliction. Social media has become a playground for the ignorant to show their bitter hearts. And I’m wondering when it will all be done. When will we collectively say enough? When will people push through the bullshit of themThe other people. People not like you. It is so simplistic in it’s thinking that I wonder how this mindset has survived all these years. Decades. Centuries. How does fallacy survive? How does it endure?

“The government’s the devil’s hands. It’s a lie and it’s a scam. They wind us up, put us down and watch us go. And if you close your eyes, there’s a big surprise”

A piece of dirt in a disputed land. A land claimed by both sides as holy ground. Powers on both sides committing crimes and atrocities. All in the name of religion. People dying and children orphaned or maimed or traumatized. Because of them. They pray to a different god. They tread on our sacred ground. They are different from us. Propaganda demonizes the enemy. Because war cannot continue if people don’t believe in them. People on both sides. They will grow weary and war tired if they are allowed to see similarities.

Palestinians crying after seven children were killed by bombs in a refugee camp (Mahmud Hams/ AFP)
Palestinians crying after seven children were killed by bombs in a refugee camp (Mahmud Hams/ AFP)
Israeli's taking refuge from Hamas rockets in a sewer pipe (Reuters)
Israeli’s taking refuge from Hamas rockets in a sewer pipe (Reuters)

And the people caught in the middle? The people who retreat to a bomb shelter throughout the day? The people who’s children are killed and who’s homes are destroyed? They aren’t that different. They want to live in peace. Comfort. Security. They want it all to stop. They want to be able to eat and work and play and raise their families. But it won’t stop. Not until we stop seeing them. Not until we start seeing us. Seeing our children’s faces in a sewer pipe. Seeing our lives and hearts ripped apart because our child was killed by a senseless war that rages on. One that feeds on the notion of them.

 “I’ve been lost in the name of love. And we kill our brothers daily in the name of god. We’d better chill before we take on some tribulation. And if we realized? Then we’d make a little love”

Yet another young black man killed. Unarmed. Shot. More than once. Unarmed and walking down the street. Not a new story. A story as old as our nation. A story that continues to play out with heartbreaking frequency. A story that continues because of them.

And I’m angry. Because we should be better than this. I’m angry because I don’t care what he was wearing or what symbols or signs he flashed in a photo that seems to become some kind of implicit justification. Because he was shot. He was unarmed and he was killed. And this has happened again. And again.

(N.Y. Daily News)
(N.Y. Daily News)

I’m angry because it is clear that if you look a certain way you are living in danger every day that you venture out in the world. Because of how you look. Because of assumptions rooted in ignorance and hatred. Because of ideas that are so ingrained that many people don’t even realize they subscribe to them. And it doesn’t matter that he was college bound. But the nature of such incidents is to place the burden on the deceased to prove that they had a future. It cannot be assumed that they had a future. It must be stated and reiterated and shouted from a megaphone. That he had a future. The sick cruel nature of our world. To value the life of someone over another based on a certain path deemed worthy. Because if he wasn’t on a particular path, he wasn’t us. He was them.

There is no them.

There’s just us.

Strip away the superficial. The colors, the accents, the mannerisms, the dialects.

The religions.

Eliminate them because they are superfluous. They don’t matter.

And what do you have? The same. The same red blood coursing through blue veins. The same hearts, four chambers pumping life sustaining blood. The same brains firing off directions and information and knowledge. The same hearts. The hearts that ache with loss. The hearts that want peace and safety. The hearts that yearn for life and joy and love. Boil it all down. That’s what we all want. The rest is bullshit. Life. Laughter. Dignity. Security. That’s what they want. Just like you. They are like you.

I’ve had enough of them.

I’m tired of political leaders and power grabbers and game players and antiquated prejudice telling me about them. I’m tired of the delusion being repeated. Causing damage. Destruction. Death. Shame. Disgrace. Someone somewhere has a stake in them. Someone needs to keep us in fear. Someone profits or exalts or rejoices in division rather than unity. Someone wants to inhibit change and progress. Someone wants to see only the differences instead of the similarities.

Look around. Watch. Listen to what people say. Look for them. Whether it’s politicians from disparate parties. Whether it is land hungry dictators. Whether its someone trying to justify a boy being gunned down. Whether it is people offering an overly simplistic view of mental illness and suicide. Whether its people advocating sending immigrant children back to the horrors they just fled. If they are speaking in them, then there’s an agenda. If they are speaking in them, there’s no will to unite or to bring together or to resolve. The aim is to divide further. To fortify the barriers to progress. To keep us in a place of judgement and hate.

And when you see it, don’t buy into it.

Don’t let them cloud your thinking.

Call them out.

Call bullshit on them. 

‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of them.