A few months ago I saw this painting. Well, it’s actually embroidered (by hand) which makes it that much cooler.
Anyways, It’s the story of a water monster that comes every month to the village and demands a sacrifice to be made to him, in order to stop terrorizing the people. You can see a body caught in its mouth, the one he chose.
I think most of us believe ourselves to be the people of the village, but I personally think the water monster is us. I’m thinking of the injustices that unfold across the world, and most of us don’t react unless we see evidence of the trauma, unless we see bodies of a man and his child washed ashore the Rio Grande, unless we see documentaries of five black boys abused by the justice system, or hear of children dead in detention centers. We are the water monster that requires bodies as sacrifice, in exhange for our compassion, for our solidarity, for our outrage.
I know you’ll say you’re not that person. But I’m sure you can think of instances when you’ve rejected someone’s tale of their pain, especially if they said you were the culprit or were complicit. What do you say to fat people, to disabled people, to trans people to poor people, when they say they’re hurting. Whose pain do you dismiss? Who’s trauma do you deny, demanding more wounds, more dead bodies, before you can give some compassion and work to bring peace? Aren’t you the water monster then? I know I am.
If you look at the bottom right corner of this picture however, you’ll notice there’s a warrior holding a spear. He’s decided he’s tired of giving bodies away to the insatiable monster, and has decided to try and kill him. I propose we be the warriors: expect it’s gonna be an internal battle first, of suffocating the place within that doesn’t believe in the pain of others. To say enough is enough, even before the headlines of dead bodies from crossing borders or crossing bullets.
Please don’t ask for more evidence or more bodies. Believe it when it’s dehumanizing words. Dehumanizing policies. Dehumanizing detention centers. Believe even before you see the first body.
But what I like about this picture though is that all of us are some aspect of each character, simultaneously. The terrorized villagers, the bodies offered as sacrifice, the brave warrior, and yes, the water monster too.