Hiding the Dead

When I first learned of the graves, understood the likelihood that there are so many more to be found, hundreds of children at each site, at each ‘boarding school,” each “residential school,” I was taken aback by the sheer numbers. It is not common, not normal, for hundreds of children to die while at “school.” It’s not normal to shovel the dead into mass graves, hidden graves, their bodies not returned to their families.

What sort of people would do this?

What sort of people hide the dead?

It’s a tell.

Always, it’s a tell.

We see aerial photographs, infrared, revealing gravesites of enslaved people near Louisiana’s chemical factories, on former plantations, unmarked cemeteries tucked alongside the season’s plantings of tobacco, the dead made visible by the technology of our time, the technology of revelation.

We should not be surprised when what it reveals is us.

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

R.D. Laing

Word of the week: Procrustean. We made your bed. Go lie in it.

4 thoughts on “Hiding the Dead

  1. Wendy W

    Have you read Nickel Boys?

  2. Perhaps the big surprise is not that these atrocities were happening and we never knew (because we didn’t want to know, didn’t want to believe it was true), but rather that now, when everything around us is in free fall, we are for some reason suddenly willing to acknowledge that they happened. The interesting question to me is “Why now?”

    1. That these free-fall times are creating cracks in the façade I have no doubt. Also, something about historical distance, psychic distance, the impression, however false, that it all happened long ago and/or far away, whatever “it” may be. It seems we can talk about atrocities committed by our culture only when we feel we can no longer be held responsible, that the guilt rests with generations past or with obvious bad actors we can single out without having to consider our own culpability. And even then, there is usually so much resistance to the idea that people like us do things like this. I suspect there is plenty of resistance now, and that justice will be a long time coming for the families of these children and others whose bones still wait to be discovered.

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