The sky is blue and the rolling hillside is just a few parkways and minutes over from the coast. The sun is shining but not too hot. Temperate. The sliding screen door to the backyard is –like me–around 50. The backyard is both green and lush and controlled. The gardener will be by later today. I don’t know his name. He will sculpt whatever is natural into suburban submission. Neighbors on social media will identify an errant flora or fauna and post a photo and ask the important questions–is it harmful? Should it be allowed to stay?
The other day someone online in my neighborhood was concerned over ladybugs.
It’s been voted one of the safest cities in the state. Like the pristine landscape, one gets the feeling that consciousness has been Roundedup here. Eradicated like a country’s heart on a dry deadland border full of desperation and depravity.
It is that removedness that I speak of. It is that removedness I have a hunch that we collectively feel.
When I was in college the onset of video–of a camcorder in every pocket, means we all got to watch those four racists cops beat Rodney King’s body on the ground. Means we–like the late Mayor Tom Bradley would say after the verdicts–all saw the tape.
And seeing back then meant reacting–no matter whether your suburb had pink sound walls spray painted with words of defiance. No matter if there was litter in your street, no matter if you were bunkered up behind the gates of your community.
Or perhaps I’m just nostalgic for movement and youth and a punk rock response and a fist in the air.
I’ve spent a lifetime feeling alone while with lovers, husbands, and romance seemed a side gig to combatting all there was to combat. There was a difference to be made and it would be made I was sure of it–by me, by those more organized than me, by those who brought down apartheid in South Africa, or the Berlin wall, surely some liberation was coming.
But now I’m a woman in love and newly married and living part-time in the country’s first planned community because it’s still coastal and more affordable than the less planned places by the sea. I am a Californian lucky enough only by circumstance and nothing else to have almost affordable housing. I’m drinking my morning coffee careful to not place the cup directly on the wood for fear it might damage the table we worked hard to refinish. I balance it instead uncomfortably in my plush thrift store (but doesn’t smell like thrift store) chair.
We go to bed thinking and talking about the children at the border; we wake up thinking and talking about them and yesterday it was reported that their mothers must drink water from toilets. Anything to make the desperate more dehumanized. Anything to be cruel.
To me, though the cruelty is usual not unusual. And as complicit as a perfect hedge. It is a strange place to live–my mind and heart filled with more love than ever and this constant aching sorrow that none of us are doing enough and we all know more than we used to know and with so little complete knowledge we used to act more swiftly, concretely.
Cops out soiled out, sold out
Cop out solid doubt
Co-pted soul splayed out
My man believes good people will–given the knowledge and the machinery for change do what’s right.
I believe that it doesn’t matter to THEM whether poor, brown people have documents or not, whether they are citizens or not, whether they have green cards or not, whether they are fleeing violence and hunger.
I’m one of those light-skinned ‘that’s funny, you don’t look, Latina. I thought you were_____” latinas. Which means in the course of my life I’ve heard those good people say shitty things about brown people because they assumed I was a good person too. My skin has made me a double agent. An observer. A traitor. A way to get into the other side. Inside out. Exposure.
What can I do from here that I haven’t already done? What more letters? What more money? What more screaming? What can I do that will not harm me or my own children or my own family? What can relieve the sorrow in my heart? That dull pierce in an otherwise perfect time?
And who are these people, these fellow countrymen who would take jobs that deprive themselves and their victims of humanity? And who are these people , these fellow countrymen who think this is okay?
The sky is still blue, mid-morning. It’s quiet now. The birds have stopped their morning song. The room I am sitting in to write this is nearly perfect. Isolated. Deliberately quiet.
I am less than a hundred miles from the concentration camps on the American/Mexican border. Twenty some odd years ago I visited the fledgling democracies of eastern Europe. On a train outside Krakow, Poland I saw the village of Oswiecim–and I wondered how anyone could live there, so close to so much degradation, destruction, and death.
It was early summer when I visited and the countryside was lush and green and had a certain perfection about it. A familiarity. A place one could be happy to live. And I wondered why they weren’t able to shut it all down if they were indeed good people. How they didn’t just rise up en masse and bring it all down.
It’s not something I wonder about anymore.