At the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, the sounds you hear tell the whole story. At first you hear the clanging of bodies against fences, followed by a slow, prolonging wailing coming from seemingly everywhere. Then, as you start to listen closely, you can hear something strangely familiar. As you walk the lengths of the cages, your suspicions are confirmed as you say a monitor mounted to the wall displaying CNN at close to full volume. Not only is this horribly obnoxious, but of all the things that could be playing, they are showing reruns of the Sanders/Warren handshake debacle with several commentators giving their take. Asking one of the children sitting on the concrete floor what he thinks of all this, he simply replies, “I hope they can work things out.”
“It just seems like they have a lot more important things to deal with,” the child told us. “I hope they can move past this and focus on the task at hand. I’ve been here for months watching this thing and I don’t see why they can’t just get along.”
As our tour group was passing through, I noticed that more and more of the kids were sitting on the hard floor and turning their eyes toward the screens. They were almost hypnotized by the televisions blaring different spectators and their squalid opinions. It was like they were feeding on it.
“The TV is all we have,” another child told us who had been at the center for close to a year. “For awhile, all we had was each other and our plastic cots for distraction. Now, we have everything we need. At least that’s what the people on the screen tell us.”
As we were ushered out of the center, with our 30 minute scheduled visit complete, I heard a talking head utter the worlds “This is what our democracy has come to. This is who we now.” He was referring to the fact that a Republican Senator had been booed out of a restaurant for the third time. They did not mention the people in cages or the clear disregard for the will of the American people. They didn’t mention them because they no longer sway the corporate interests of those at the top.
We left the center feeling different, but not permanently changed. No, the horrible reality of the changes made to those actually living day after day in the center is what made us feel different. Imagine what that is doing to the children isolated in there. Imagine how truly despicable that is. Imagine a world where we can change this before it is too late.