News Camera Pointed at Protestors Dressed as Detainees

From the Archive

There Is a Man Under That Hood

We are not here to make angels out of prisoners.
We don’t know them,
but we know they still are men.
And so we defend
those that disappear
under hoods into jumpsuits, bringing back
into the light every CIA black site
because right now
there is a man
under that hood.

A brother breathing prayers of desperation,
striking hunger so hard that his ribs
are about to crack.
In Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, in Iraq
there is a man under that hood
who is being treated as less than human.
His rights have been dismissed
with the label terrorist
and just for saying this
you probably put my name on a list,
but it is too serious to us to not resist.

Mr. President, I need you to know,
if it were you hooded and chained,
we would be here demanding the same
human rights for you.
Mr. Senator, we would walk through these streets
with your name on our back.
We would fast in solidarity with your hunger strike.
Mrs. Congresswoman, even after months
under black cloth
making you cough,
we would speak for you.

Mr. Newsman, Mrs. Citizen,
we would be right here for you,
because human rights are universal.
This is life, not a rehearsal.
We, we are here because we cannot decide
who is human and who is not.
We cannot steal years of men’s lives
based on lies
extracted from torture and bribes
without becoming the greatest threat to ourselves.

We have sat inside a cell
and it has taught us how wrong it is to cage men
because they fell like corpses
into the category of enemy combatants.
I will not act like nothing happened
when it’s happening now.
I will not bow
to injustice. I will speak
for the change that was promised.
I’m not ashamed to be honest, Mr. President.
We have tried, Mr. President.
Clouds of consciousness overflowing out these eyes,
Mr. President, for the moments when we
have the courage to realize
that there is a man under that hood.

No matter how beaten and bruised,
there is a man under that hood
that is exactly as human as you.
There is a man under that hood
regardless of his religion.  There is a man
who doesn’t understand
why it’s so hard for us to see him,
why it’s so hard for us to imagine
what is would be like to be him
there, where they sit in our prisons
hidden from our justice system,
locked away.
Are we going to pretend
they’re less than men and just walk away?

or will we raise our eyes above the walls?
Will we raise our voices to call out our government
and say, “We see you”;
“We are watching what you’re doing”?
And no matter how many times
they call you terrorist,
we will recognize that you are human.
And to the detainees,
no matter how broken and shattered
and tortured you feel, there are people
in these United States who hear you
and see you, who know that you are real.
And to the people in my country, please,
do not pretend to be seeking freedom
or justice, or any common good
until we are ready to recognize the human rights
of every
man under that hood.

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