A couple of days ago, I walked through the Border Cantos exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. By the time we were about to leave the exhibit, I was an emotional wreck. I could not walk out into the sunlit corridor without composing myself first; I was shattered by what I had seen. It wasn’t the horror of the images; it was the horror the images exposed. It was the horror of the attitudes that allow the United States to behave as if decency were a flaw. As if humanity were a monstrous defect. As if caring were a personal blemish one ought not to expose in public.
I do not recall another time when I finished a museum exhibition unable to show my face without first borrowing my wife’s Kleenex and wiping away tears. But wiping away tears did not wipe away red eyes; I can only imagine what people who saw me as I left the exhibit must have thought.
I do not know what impact the exhibit will have on me. I hope it will propel me to forget my concerns about my personal safety and allow me, instead, to stand up to the horrors that are inflicted upon “illegal” aliens. I am, tonight, enraged that I belong in a country that teaches its border patrol agents to practice shooting images made to look like “illegals.” I am disgusted to know that there seems to be some delight in tearing families apart.
This memory sullied the joy of my thirty-seventy anniversary today. But the memory won’t ruin today. Tomorrow, though, I’ll consider how my reaction to the exhibit might be turned into some form of action that, if enough other human beings exist and willingly assist, might change the fractured landscape on which we shamefully walk.