I miss my home. Although I’ve never seen where it is, I close my eyes and picture every detail it contains.
December 11, 2020
This essay was inspired by the many radicals of past and present. To you I am ever grateful for the gift of hope.
Prison is not a home.
When someone wants to know what cell you’re in, they will never ask, “Where is your room?” Room is too endearing of a word. To equate prison to a home would attach permanence to it. It would signify a certain comfort that could never be found in such misery.
Never a home.
In here, I can hardly exhale. Even when my feet are up, my boots are tied. To show emotion is to display weakness. And weakness is blood for the hounds. Hate laps at the heart like a dog’s incessant thirst. Compassion is only captured in brief glimpses, the flicker of shadows you doubt you ever really show.
I miss my home.
I don’t think of its size, nor how many rooms there are to walk about. Yet when I stand in front of its open door, I feel the warmth of its embrace.
My home is the elsewhere to the here we now know. The potential future for the disciples of social justice.
A revolutionary’s dream.
Although I’ve never seen where it is, I close my eyes and picture every detail it contains.
With a smile, I stand on the steps looking out into my neighborhood. I’ve been gone for far too long. My home is surrounded by a bunch of other homes, and none of them look the same. The houses resemble the people. All different shapes, sizes, styles, and colors. Our differences bring us closer together. It doesn’t matter that most of us speak different languages. Communication technology translates for us in real time.
However, even that technology is becoming outdated.
Most of the children are polyglots now. During conversations, they cycle through multiple languages without a second thought. They laugh among themselves when they create new words that the translator doesn’t know. Words and sounds dance around like smiles that bring the comfort of a patchwork quilt.
My community is my home, so the door to my dwelling is always open. Still, out of respect for boundaries, everyone asks for entry at the door. What is the need for locks when danger is never lurking around the corner? Any traveler is welcome to rest here when they need refuge from the elements of the world.
The only travelers inside of my home today are a few of the neighborhood kids. They are sitting around my partner as she reads stories of the world of old. Everything is quiet except for her voice. She is a kind and patient teacher. They love her stories almost as much as the candy she showers them with.
I can remember the stories.
When violence was as common as a cold. A person would be killed without ever knowing why. The powerful hoarded their wealth in excess, enjoying expensive dinners while other people starved. Everyone worshipped small pieces of paper with faces printed on them. They would sing about it, kill for it, preferring it over all else.
Now the only dollar bills are in museums, a cold is no longer common, and violence is a story for the past.
Today, the kids read a story of when people were fearful of advancing technology. Often, people fear what they don’t understand. The proletariat were scared to lose their livelihoods. They thought that automation would have many of their jobs obsolete.
Well, they were right. Artificial intelligence did replace most careers. Construction work, assembly lines, and other forms of manual labor were phased out. However, the result was much different than they expected.
When the cost of production vanished, the stock market crashed. Some thought the world was coming to an end. At first, the stores went empty. The ruling class hid in their bunkers. The common people hid the best they could. Everyone prepared for the worst.
But the world didn’t end. This was when it finally began.
Back then, most people worked just to survive. Even if they hated their job, they were forced to labor just to pay the bills. Now, there is no such thing as money.
Nearly everything is made by machines. These anti-capitalist machines produced benefit, not profit. Supplies are stocked in abundance. No one ever needs to worry about the morrow. There is no surveillance here. No cameras or supervisors. All repairs and troubleshooting are done by volunteers. Everyone knows how important these goods are, so people are happy to help.
People only work in pursuit of their dreams. Imagination is no longer confined to the whims of childhood. Even adults dream now.
Everyone contributes in their own personal way. My neighbor Raheem said he was tired of painting and sculpting each day. He wanted to work on the assembly line like in the olden days. So, we cleaned out one of the machines and he took the spot on the line. Now, he clocks in and out each day packaging avocado, working for the pleasure of the job. What? He loves avocado. Who am I to judge? Everyone has the right to follow their own path.
Can you believe that people used to charge for food? That would be like charging for the air you breathe! Could you imagine selling containers of oxygen? I didn’t believe the stories of people doing that too.
Some people in our town choose not to live in houses, but I wouldn’t call them homeless. They still say, “Where I lay my hat is my home.” It’s not uncommon for small tent villages to pop up, flush with gardens full of vegetation. Families live together in community, and children play together under the blue sky. After some time, the villages vanish. They have moved on to their next adventure. Some folks are wanderers and travelers by nature.
Our townsfolk understand that there is not a set standard for a family structure. There are many different household styles. Each person chooses how they want to live. Humans don’t reach maturity at one set age. Young folks run their own homes when they decide. Some live with their caregivers until passing. Others, like my cousin Iron Eyes, set out at fourteen. We don’t adhere to the one-size-fits-all approach.
For those of us who choose to live in a structure, each home runs off of renewable energy. Even the water is recyclable. All waste is made into compost for our farms and gardens. The community waste management robots pick that up each day. Fossil fuels were cycled out ages ago. Why did people use them after knowing they destroyed the planet? We follow the Indigenous principle “Mitakuye Oyasis”, we are all related. We honor both our human and nonhuman relatives.
It should go without saying, all healthcare is free. Money no longer determines whether someone lives or dies. Why was that ever a debatable issue?
Sometimes harm still occurs.
Mostly, among young people who are still developing. But it is much less frequent than before. Every child learns how to deal with harm in school. They take community-based safety courses where they learn about violence prevention and bystander intervention. Students are taught about healthy relationships, consent, and boundaries. Every level of education is free because every teacher is a student. Our dialogue increases us in knowledge. When an incident of harm occurs in school, no one gets suspended or expelled. That never did any good for a child.
Instead we use those moments to teach the foundations of transformative justice. Every person causes harm. That does not make you a “bad person.” All of us end up in a healing circle at some point.
I was the cause of my first circle. My classmate Chris had a nice red toy I wanted for myself. I snatched, I pushed, I grabbed, they fell. The circle was facilitated by older kids in the school. Our whole class was involved. Sitting on the ground, surrounded by my friends, I didn’t think much of it until Chris spoke. They said what hurt the most was they thought I was their friend. I felt so bad. That was my first experience with guilt. I am still embarrassed to think about what I did. Those early experiences have a great impact on adulthood.
One day, a police officer knocked on my door. Her uniform was neatly pressed with a badge on her chest. I was a little startled at first. I never saw a cop in person before. The only ones I’ve seen before were from when we learned about them in school. They would shackle and shoot, terrorizing the communities they patrolled. This officer’s name was Aishah.
Thankfully, she was only a historical actress who came to remind us of the dangers of the past.
If we want to punish people, we would send them to prisons, jails, immigration centers, and psychiatric wards. But what benefit would that bring? We learn about these institutions in our history classes.
Everyone knows that sending those who caused harm to those places only caused more harm. And nursing homes! We couldn’t imagine sending anyone to live their final days in those places. We take care of our family, friends, and neighbors. Those who we know and those who we don’t. People are not less than just because they have differently abled bodies or mental health conditions. Humanity is valuable, we just no longer allow capitalists’ to profit from it.
Anything you have in your hand is yours to keep, but why would you want to do that when you can give it away?
We read about the days when people based their governments on structured models. Democracy, communism. A bunch of rules citizens were mandated to follow. Really, we think it’s all quite silly.
Our community no longer follows such rigid programming.
Wait. Everything is turning gray.
Why is my home starting to fade away?
”Count time, count time. This is a mandatory standing count. Lights on, out of your bunks. Count time!”
It’s time to wake up, the guards are calling count. Gravity’s prison pulls me back to reality. We have to stand to be counted, like chattel on the farm.
I tighten my closed eyes, forcing my home to come back into focus.
My bed is soft under my partner’s embrace. With feet up and boots off, I laugh, I cry, I share my fears. She nods her head. An acknowledgement is all that is needed.
We walk to the future, like footprints stopped suddenly in sand. What do you see as you look out at the ocean?
We create only that which we are able to envision. The advancing technology of the west provided us the resources, yet it was the history of the Third World which gave us our moral compass.
They say this is utopia. Maybe that’s why I see it in my dreams.
This essay is published as part of A World Without Cages, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s ongoing project on The Margins that imagines the end of mass incarceration and migrant detention by bringing together the work of writers on the inside and on the outside. This project aims to nurture writers, activists, and intellectuals to dream new worlds beyond punishment, policing, surveillance, segregation, and exclusion. Read more in the project here.