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Hidden People

It was the winter of my junior year in college. I was an editor for my college newspaper, late for a meeting. I was lucky during college. My mother, after several years of drug abuse and years of foster care, was clean. She had lived with a beautiful man, my step-father, for several years. I was fortunate to live in the historic St. George Hotel in Brooklyn, on scholarship for college. Happy enough, my family had finally come together. I would leave New York, take the long wobbly train home to New Jersey and see a house with windows, doors, a mother, a step-father. Normal things. Milk, cookies, curtains. Somewhere along the way, my step-father relapsed. He too was in recovery. After being rejected for rehab based on insurance policies, he robbed a bank, stating he needed money for re-hab. He was not himself: lost and broken inside a head prescribed with incorrect psychiatric medication. Of course I never intend on justifying his behavior, but I saw this man’s heart breaking.Five years later, he was given a trial. This was a Wednesday – this year. I, now an intern with PEN American Center’s prison writing program, sat waiting for his sentence. 13 years, because he may be a repeat offended. Non-violent crime. Whether it’s right or wrong, I can hear his silence when I sleep at night. No computer, no easy access to paper or pens, no real way to say much, to fight for oneself, to pick up a phone and find a new lawyer. Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, as applied to the general public.But what about the people hidden from society? What about the men and women who we’ve displaced, forgotten, assumed weren’t really men or women. They’re criminals. They have no hearts. And while there are plenty of monsters who should be tucked away, someone’s father or someone’s baby sister is sitting in there, quieted. Working with PEN American Center, I had the distinct ability to celebrate Liu Xiaobo’s nobel prize. He, too, a prisoner. He spoke some words. He spoke some wrong words. He was put away for years, for speaking. With all the books, and all the speeches, and all the protests – I still can't remember a day when the heart of the world wasn't just a little broken.  I miss the hidden people.

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Heartfelt, Lisa. What a

Heartfelt, Lisa. What a poignant and powerful statement for those who cannot speak for themselves. Through your post, we too hear their silences. ~M