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No hope

Jason Godeke illustrates George Saunders
This painting is called Me and Dad with captives. No explanation proffered. It’s by New Mexico artist Jason Godeke as part of a series about inhumanity.

The scene recreated here haunts me every time I look upon it, and reminds me of the George Saunders novella Bounty. From his collection CivilWarLand in bad decline written in 1996, Bounty describes a timeless America where slavery divides Normals and Flaweds. The story offers the reader a point of view with which he can identify, as any average imperfect person, facing a world were all laws, comforts and sympathies are against him. Escape leads only to the next captor’s depravity, (Normals being just as vulnerable to human frailty as the random genetically Flawed). For the unfortunates, damned by birth, there is no landscape or impending social reform to offer hope of reprieve.

Godeke’s farm scene suggests an identical terror. Two people, indistinguishable from any other, are bound and at the mercy of two others. One looks despondent, the other is reacting to a mistreatment. The two tormentors act with fresh enthusiasm for the power they wield over their captives, recording, as the painting’s title suggests, this snapshot for posterity. Not “our captives,” not “the captives,” but simply that opportunity’s “captives.” The field extends further than the victims’ voices can carry, there is no sanctuary on the horizon and time stands still.

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