Today, I look at this picture and it is more disturbing than ever before. I try to imagine what it would be like for someone standing with a clipboard, backed up by armed guards, and telling me and my family to hike over to Block 14, Building 1, that this would be our new home for who knows how long.
The lie inherent in such a direction is that such a building was never intended to be a home. Home is not where 32 mostly unrelated people are crammed into a space of 2,000 square feet. Back home, in Southern California or the San Francisco Bay Area, or the Central Valley, a family of 4 usually lived in a home of 1200 to 1,400 square feet. No, this building was not intended as a home. It was intended as a prison barrack.
Most homes have a yard of some sort, even a small one. Instead, the surrounding here looks like a prison yard. The land is nearly barren. Yes, there are basketball hoops between the buildings for recreation, and the sound of bouncing balls would be a welcome diversion for some. For others, it would be an irritating noise that could not be avoided, a constant reminder of captivity.
The view of the Sierra Nevada would be strikingly beautiful. But, it would also be a reminder that I could not go there. It might be a source of hope that one day I would go out the gate of this prison camp and then go wherever I wanted… free like the birds who fly overhead. I would try to hold onto that hope with all my might.
Like so many did, I would try to make this a home. Perhaps, adding my own hand made furniture. Perhaps, a family member would plant some small plants, or place some beautiful stones by the entry stairs. Perhaps, we would gather to tell stories of the past and to make up new stories about this present. Perhaps, out of this prison we would fashion a home, as an expression of freedom and resistance and hope.
As I listen to the current distortions of what passes for our nation’s political discourse, I am struck by how common place lies have become. How amazing is it that the greatest of lies and liars seem to go unpunished, their lies unnoticed by so many. Anything based on a fundamental lie cannot be good. That is why I am drawn back to this image. It was a lie that this building was intended to be a home in some innocuous process of “relocation” and “protection.” It was meant to be a prison.