Listen to Jim:
or read on…
Orange and white stripes make today’s fashion statement.
Or rather, orange and white-striped soiled cloth cut and stitched into loose-fitting outfits make today’s fashion statement.
It’s Christmas Eve morning and I’m driving north on Richard Arrington Boulevard toward the civic center, in the process passing between the Museum of Art on the left and the County Jail on the right. In front of the jail (the “Criminal Justice Center” to you), under the watchful gaze of Branko Medenica’s statue of a fallen warrior, “Centurion,” several inmates are sweeping and cleaning the front plaza.
It is cold, and the workers are focused on their task, as if sheer concentration might stave off the icy bite breezing up the sleeves of their uniforms.
To you and me and the rest of the city, it is merely a quiet, sunny, freezing day. All you and I can feel is how WE feel, so that if we’re in a good mood, the world seems to be filled with goodwill. If we are ill-tempered, the world is grouchy.
Should we briefly spy a handful of prisoners outfitted in orange and white getting some cold sunshine and exercise we can empathize for a moment, sympathize a second, even project ourselves into this outdoor scene. But we can’t BE these folks. We can’t lift their personal burdens. We can’t shorten the icy sunshine sentences they are serving right before our eyes.
All we can do is ruminate, speculate, even appreciate…then move on to our own specific worlds, whatever they contain.
Well, maybe we can do one thing more.
Maybe we can freeze in time this momentary picture—this snapshot of real lives on hold, framed by an open plaza, overlorded by a humbled statue and spied upon by a passing motorist. Maybe this selfie of one moment in time can be studied and analyzed and pored over and re-imagined by people more proactive and creative than you or me. Maybe down the road some kind of social upheaval will cure the world of having to imprison or punish or enslave or subjugate. Maybe one day there will be no need for memorials, living or inanimate…memorials that rue the day someone was unjustly taken from us.
Maybe one day the only prisons in existence will be those within our own private thoughts and imaginations.
Meanwhile, the least we passersby can do is note the moment, bookmark the scene before us, return to it again and again until we come up with something better than voyeurism
© Jim Reed 2013 A.D.
It’s just another day in the many lives of Birmingham.