Although the truck trip hadn’t been that long, Eloise was glad it was over. The back of the truck was crowded, and she had to stand next to Bessie who was one of her least favorite companions. Bessie always bragged about how she was so much better than the rest.
It was hot as they started to move in to the building. They came to the fence and Bessie naturally pushed to the head of the line since she was more important than the rest. She sneeringly turned to look at her companions as she walked ahead of them, a slight swagger in her step. She was the first to feel the weight of the sledge hammer which ended her consciousness before the knife took her life.
When the wind came from the west as it usually did, the smell of fear and blood and death filled the air in my neighborhood, then travelled to the waters of Lake Michigan where they were dissipated before reaching the borders of Michigan or Indiana. The Chicago Stockyards were open for business and would remain so for seven years after I moved to the city, finally closing in 1971.
There had been a movement toward relocating slaughterhouses in urban areas and putting them closer to the source of the livestock which were their clientele. Chicago relinquished it’s title, “The Hog slaughter capital of the world,” with some equanimity. Improved and reliable transportation made it less important to have the finished product close to the source of consumption. But this change had its impact on the neighborhood where the slaughterhouses had operated.
Drovers Bank which had been chartered in 1883 to serve the cowboys who moved the cattle to their final destination closed seven years after the stockyards in 1978. The saloons and houses where women of questionable virtue held court near the yards were long gone. While we still wanted to consume that steak or slab of ribs, we no longer wanted to be close to the process that produced them for us. We wanted to pretend blissful ignorance – and we still do.
“Out of sight – out of mind.” I don’t know if this was originally a German proverb but as with the Union Stockyards in Chicago, Hitler employed the same strategy in his location of the death camps. If photos of the inner workings or the slaughterhouses or the showers in Auschwitz were released to the public, more of us might be vegans and the Second World War might have ended sooner.
Today we have what is described by some as “a humanitarian challenge and responsibility” to take care of the children from Central America who are crossing our southern border. Others describe this as a well-orchestrated, planned invasion. Perhaps it is some mixture of both. But if it is the former, then wouldn’t it make sense to sell the idea by photographing the waifs who have made the hazardous journey thus dispelling the arguments of the doubters? After all, unlike “global warming/climate change” it is not difficult to take a snapshot of the subject matter.
Surprisingly, not only are reporters and even Congressmen not being allowed into the facilities where these newcomers to America are being housed, those who are expected to tend to them are not receiving advanced notice that they are on their way. Why? If we are trying to fulfill a presumed responsibility to take care of them, wouldn’t it make sense to allow those who will receive them to make appropriate preparations?
While this administration might not be the most transparent in history, it may prove to be the most prescient. Perhaps it has looked across the country and found that apathy is one of our citizenry’s greatest attainments. And within that context it realizes that most of us would prefer to remain in a constant stupor of blissful ignorance.