the power of pictures


John Moore/Getty Images

It took pictures and audio recordings. Words weren’t enough.


I’ll admit I scrolled past the initial headlines a couple weeks ago as I sifted through the firehose of daily news, trying not to drown. Something about migrant kids and detention centers and wait, what did Kanye just say about slavery?


When a friend asked, I told her I saw the story but hadn’t clicked or read it yet but I was sure it was horrible, awful, the worst — like almost everything else that’s been done in our name and under our flag since last January. We both sighed, because breathing is important and sometimes it feels like the only thing we can do. Kids were in cages and Kim was in the Oval Office and what do you think we should get for lunch?


Pictures are different, harder to ignore.


They tried. Our president came on TV and lied directly into the cameras, something we’ve all gone numb to, like the service fees tacked on to our cell phone bills — we know it’s not right but what can you do? He told us there was nothing he could do, because it was the Blue Team’s fault, because it was Obama’s fault, because maybe it was Kimye’s fault but did you see him talking to that other Kim, the Korean one? Man, that guy was nice and strong and when he talks, his people sit up and listen and wouldn’t it be great if we did the same?


Kristjen, whose very name comes from immigrants because unless your name is Running Bull, yours probably does, too. In her case, it’s a masculine given name in the Estonian and Slovenian languages, a variation of the name Christian, another insulting irony tossed on the seemingly endless pile of ironies generated by this administration almost as fast as Mueller can issue indictments. Drain the swamp. Fake news. Kirstjen the Christian telling us nothing could be done because Congress needed to pass a law and because there might be criminals in there and because they’ve already committed a crime, anyway. When asked if what we were doing was child abuse, she tilted her head and said “be more specific, please.” Then she thought she’d go out and get some Mexican food.


But the pictures were specific. The audio was specific.


Kids, babies, screaming and crying, taken from mothers breastfeeding and fathers tasked with keeping them safe. Government employees and contractors— the ones we all pay — incorrectly believing they couldn’t touch them, didn’t. Some made jokes. Others watched, and I’m still not sure how they sleep at night, but I imagine they take a lot of deep breaths because they’re just following the rules and doing their jobs and weren’t they all criminals anyway?


There’s nuance in immigration policy and border enforcement and national security, but there’s also kids and babies sitting in cages in empty Walmarts right now, crying. Our president, consumer-in-chief of pictures, went out and lied to the cameras again today, congratulating himself for solving another problem he created. And when he was done, he handed the pen to Kristjen, who probably thinks it’s finally safe to go grab some tacos.


This is post #27/30 in a 500 Words-A-Day Challenge. Read them all here.