It is night. Rain has fallen. A deserted plaza in some city somewhere, anywhere: abandoned buildings crowned with television antennae that used to bring The News to whomever used to live in such places that were perhaps once beautiful: their homes. The street and the plaza are torn up, three twisted traffic barriers, some paving stones, a ribbon of yellow police tape. Under a street lamp a girl child plays around the puddles on her bicycle, alone in her own world . She’s not aware yet of five men with guns behind her, but we can be certain that the men are aware of her.
The space between the men and the child is critical because it invites questions: Nothing has happened yet and perhaps nothing will. Will the gunmen menace her, or will they leave her alone because they have other targets? Will she cycle down a side street back to her home? Are the men benign, just doing their jobs? Following orders? Are they police? The army? A militia? Vigilantes? Immigration authorities? What will happen to the girl– if anything? The painting doesn’t tell us; it offers only possibilities.
I painted this watercolor in 2009. Look around: men with guns are always present here in Freedom’s Land and Bravery’s Home. Our country has been a police state for years. But even in my darkest suspicions, I never imagined that the U.S. would empower a mean-spirited political party that would be so unapologetically cruel that it would, as a matter of official policy, forcibly tear immigrant children away from their parents and inter them and their parents in cages. After days of official lies and disinformation, including a quote from the Bible justifying the removal of children from their parents, this so-called “zero-tolerance” policy has since been rescinded, at least temporarily, although the guardians of our “freedoms” are now able to jail parents and children indefinitely. Meanwhile there is still no answer as to how the guardians will reunite the thousands of families that have already been torn apart. One would like to think that they care.
Look around: children are still used as pawns by politicians even– and especially right now– right here in the U.S. of A. Two days from now on the Fourth of July take a moment to consider where your immigrant forebears came from– Italy, Mexico, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, El Salvador, Spain, Turkey, Guatemala, Japan, France, China, Canada, the list is almost endless. As for me, I’ll imagine a girl on a bicycle, alone and happy, perhaps like the rest of us– before anything happens