The news traveled quickly today (8/20/2015) through social media as it does on any given day. And today, it was the beating of a homeless Hispanic man in the city of Boston.
I have been to Boston twice, once in 2005 and this past July of 2015. Upon my return of my most recent visit, I checked out Upton Sinclair’s documentary novel: Boston, from the public library, which is a long account about the Sacco and Vanzetti case with other fictional additions. Between the memories of that July weekend and the reading of the novel, Boston has been prominently in my mind for the last several weeks.
The news today, as it has been steadily for a while now, reeks of violence, hatred, and sheer disregard for people. (If it is not people, it is the exploitation of the nature, wildlife, and the planet.) During this most recent visit to Boston, eager to learn and explore, my partner and I walked and photo-documented the Freedom Trail on a cloudy Saturday. Trekking on this fascinating tour through history, there was a clear attempt at mindfulness when considering those terms: freedom and trail, and what they signify contextually. What would the trail mean for enslaved African-Americans before 1865? What would freedom mean for exploited factory workers in the Boston of the early twentieth century, the ones who in Sinclair’s masterful prose, were subject to “loan-sharks, peddlers of shoddy goods, fake patent medicines and adulterated foods” (57)?
The homeless Hispanic man who was urinated on and beaten by two adult males with a sense of supremacy embodies the long trail of many toward a basic kind of freedom: the freedom of being considered human regardless of socioeconomic or jurisdictional matters. Any sense of supremacy is false, but that does not take away the detrimental effects on a community when people act upon such premise to abuse and belittle their fellow human being. Sociocultural prejudice and isolation, as well as any type of dehumanization, are manifestations of the most highly flawed detours from basic respect.
Sacco and Vanzetti indeed knew something about the trails and trials of freedom. And while some people question if ignorance is at the root of hatred—like the one enacted by the two men who decided to humiliate the Hispanic man for his socioeconomic status and ethnicity—educating ourselves about history and culture does not hurt our potential for understanding. While the two perpetrators may never decide to rectify, the rest of us may set forth our trails with the dignity of knowing our worth and the humbleness of acknowledging there is still more room for growth.
And, hopefully, as the story develops, we may find out more about this man, at least something as basic as his name.
Sinclair, Upton. Boston. A Documentary Novel of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case. Cambridge: Robert Bently, Inc., 1978.