What I saw

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"Unemployment" by Ben Shahn
public domain

I didn’t see the little boy tuck a stolen loaf of bread under his jacket as he ran with his desperate bounty, but I saw the long lines of SUVs bought in better times, queueing up for hours for two boxes of free groceries. 

I didn’t hear the ominous rusty creak of arthritic tracks as the tanks rolled in. But I heard the chants of thousands of voices going hoarse from “Black Lives Matter!”

I didn’t hear the radio announcer tell us Poland had fallen, but I heard an American mayor on TV cave in and admit federal troops.

I didn’t see the resigned folks walk under the sign, “Work Makes You Free”, but I saw the long lines outside the unemployment office, waiting for an inadequate system to collect their own personal numbers. 

I didn’t see Nazi flags draped from large buildings, but I saw a middle-aged Minnesota couple with swastikas on their face masks.

I didn’t see anyone saluting the Fuehrer, but I saw four men making the White Supremacy circle with thumb and index finger in an “O”.  

I didn’t see a grim guard on the train walking up the aisle slowly, demanding papers, but I did see thousands upon thousands being denied entry at the border, or flown back due to lack of a paper ticket.

I didn’t see the shoddy barracks for the Jews, but I saw chain link fencing dividing up the endless warehouse into sections for the dark children.  

And I didn’t see a haggard mother in line, being forced to make an impossible choice.  But I did see the drowned body of a father washed up on the shore of the Rio Grande, his arm clutching the limp body of his little girl.  

I could tell you history is repeating itself.  Some might deny this is fascism.  I see what I see, and it’s wrong.

Karen Morgan is a retired local poet and activist.  She misses reading at the Laughing Goat and the Twisted Pine.