One Day: Repeating One of Our Nation's Biggest Atrocities
By J. L. Thurston
No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
Run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere is safer than here.
— Warsan Shire (source: genius.com)
In a place where the land is hot and dry, and spends all the daylight hours baking in a sun that feels two inches away, there’s a large building full of young boys. The place was once a shopping center, a big gray building made of stone. Surrounding it is a tall chain link fence topped with barbed wire. Like a prison, but it’s not.
The boys inside wear clean clothes and sometimes there’s movies on the TV. They don’t have blankets to sleep under, instead they sleep in weird foil sheets like spacemen or Martians. The sheets make loud noises when they move. It’s hard to sleep under those Martian blankets. The bathrooms are porta potties. One wall is lined with them. The boys that have to sleep nearest the porta potties have to smell it all night long. They mouth-breathe and listen to the crinkling blankets and the shhhh! of the Big Men who want them to sleep soundly like good boys.
The boys sit on long benches, shoulder to shoulder, inside wire cages that are so tall they nearly touch the exposed pipes along the ceiling. There’s Big Men that patrol the boys. Men that wear official shirts tucked into dark pants. They have their big, meaty hands on their belts and strut. Heel-toe, heel-toe, like taking a leisurely stroll. But the Big Men don’t smile, they don’t hardly look at the boys except to make sure they aren’t up to something.
The boys get to go outside sometimes. For a few hours almost every day. When they go outside and when they come back in they have to stand in a long line. At the end of the line there’s a Big Man with a scanner that flashes a red light. He scans their wristbands. The boys must always, always wear their wristbands. It holds a precious barcode that allows them to get food. The older kids know that the barcodes are to keep track of them, in case someone tries to run away. But the Big Men tell the boys that the barcodes are so they can relocate them with their families one day.
One day. That could be tomorrow, a year from now, or never. One day. The older boys know that one day is just something the Big Men say to shut them up. Like when they ask if they can get some basketballs, or if they can see their moms. “Maybe. One day,” the Big Men answer. It means, “Shut up, kid. Sit down. Don’t cause trouble.”
The little kids cry a lot. The babies are the worst. The big kids have to take care of the babies, even if they don’t know them. They change their diapers, and make sure they eat. They’re all kept together in that gray building, their wired walls keeping them pinned in, keeping them together. The Big Men say they aren’t allowed to touch the boys, even the babies. They can’t hold them when they cry, they can’t show affection. So, the big kids do it. They copy what they’ve seen their mothers do, or what they’ve seen other adults do for little ones. They repeat the lies of the Big Men. “One day, you’ll see Mommy again. One day.”
The big kids aren’t allowed to hug each other. When they first arrive to the gray building and are told the Rules, they usually scoff at that Rule. But after enough time spent sitting on a long bench, thinking of home, missing Mom and Dad, wondering where their sisters went, they break down. They think, A hug would be nice. But their new friends can’t hug them. The Big Men don’t like it. It could be a way to make trouble, somehow.
Some of the older kids who have been there long enough talk about killing themselves. They whisper about it when the Big Men aren’t close enough to hear. They wonder if they can sneak a plastic knife, let it melt outside in the sun, and then reshape it into something sharper. Something lethal. But the Big Men are always watching. It would probably never work. Some of the big kids stop eating. But the Big Men tell them that if they don’t behave and follow the Rules something terrible might happen to their parents.
Some of the older kids know a little bit of the history of this country that they were brought to. This land of opportunity that their parents were kidnapped in. They learned in school words like dehumanization and internment camps. They know the president very well because inside the big building is a mural of him on the wall. They sit under it to eat and they can see it from everywhere except inside the porta potties. He looks down on them with a smile so fake he doesn’t even show teeth. A smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. He almost looks confused in the mural, as though he doesn’t even know why he’s there. One of the big kids whisper that he looks like a poop got stuck. It makes some of the other big kids laugh, but then they get scolded when it is overheard by a Big Man.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
—Romans 13, quoted by both Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 and Adolf Hitler’s supporting pastor, Joachim Hossenfelder in 1933 (source: harpersbazaar.com and haaretz.com).
“I would cite you the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government, because God has ordained them for the purpose of the order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and the lawful.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, June 2018 on the subject of separated children from their immigrant parents. (source: USA Today)
Dear reader, I know with the lies in the media, and the blindfolding, misconceptions, and word-of-mouth alterations of truth it can be difficult to trust anything that you see or hear. But if there really are families being torn apart by our country’s authorities because they are illegal immigrants, then our authorities are monsters. The more I read, the more I see, the more my heart breaks for the evil that people in power are capable of. I have never been more ashamed to be born into this country.