By Priti Gulati Cox
The Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) located outside 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall’s office at 200 E. Iron Ave., Salina, KS, 67401 is an anti-status-quo palette of dissent against the status quo of establishment politics and its allied mainstream media, and of elite museum spaces. This resistance space has every color and no logo. SMoC is the palette, the media, the planter, and the engaging (or not) audience harvester.
SMoC communicates through everything that enters its space — through chalk, through grains, music, signs, spoken-word, the homeless pedestrians’ footsteps, embroidery floss, poetry, @RogerMarshallMD's office window display, car horns, the finger, the hand-wave, the passing freight train, empty glasses, the smells of the nearby flour mill, American Pie, climate, shadows, silence...
SMoC plants justice in opposition to arrogant white exceptionalism; and to the hypocrisy of ag-man Roger Marshall when it comes to the rights of meat packing plants and the market vs the rights of the meat packers who work in them, and other farmworkers.
It plants justice to the Representative’s vomit-inducing tweets such as "Another victory for the @realDonaldTrump administration and our increasing border security!”
It plants food justice through “discomfort food” and Crystal’s recipe design for American Pie inspired by her question “But what is America?”
America is the land layered with European settler-annihilators that built slave farms on the mainland, whose children built plantations in fertile Central America, whose children built military bases on national parks in Arizona, built them on indigenous territories.
SMoC plants justice for the victims of U.S. domestic and foreign policies via songs like “Livin' in the Wasteland of the Free” by Iris DeMent, as played by Alex and Isaiah; and via Angela's chalked-pink words “NO PEOPLE IN CAGES,” reinforced in blue a few days later by Abbi.
It plants justice for the American citizens of Puerto Rico who still haven't recovered from superpower neglect after Hurricane Maria; and for the thousands of Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans who are fleeing to the U.S. from the ravages of decades of U.S. coups, intervention, CIA-backed death squads, economic policies, all of which have rendered their countries unlivable.
It plants the names of refugees like 21-year-old Alejandro Gomez Vasquez and 34-year-old Edyn Castro whose remains were found in Pima, Arizona. They are just two of thousands who have died in the deadly Sonoran Desert while trying to seek asylum in the U.S.
It plants justice for disoriented families, scattering from the roar and shadows of helicopters that are part of the U.S. border patrol’s inhumane Prevention Through Deterrence tactics; running in the night from rattlesnakes, from jumping chollas; running, holding non-reflecting black water bottles.
It plants justice for asylum-seekers through Piyush's hand-written words and his "discomfort drink" Toppled Water Glasses:
…The cruel and dehumanizing mindset of border patrol agents come to light when we hear that they are toppling water jugs left by human angels to help migrants cross the Sonoran Desert…The toppled water glasses I arranged in front of Roger Marshall’s office while we sat in the sun to talk about what’s happening on the border with people walking across was meant to showcase the supposedly ‘Tireless’ work border patrol agents are doing.
It plants justice for the people of Flint, Michigan. Still. Through John’s spoken-word:
—by John E. Epic
Flowing from my tap
It’s a tragedy, but no mishap
And I’m not drinking it.
Spraying from my shower
While politicians fill their pockets
Soon will be the hour
When we no longer take it.
Children drinking from the faucet
Lead blood droplets
Making ‘em sick and nauseous
and they shouldn’t be drinking it.
Underground pipes under my feet
Carried to impoverished streets
Purposely concealed ignorance
Ignored with apathy
This is what the next generation inherits
And I’m not drinking it.
Neglected planet getting hotter
Future of fire
For our sons and daughters
Old white men behind false altars
Progress slowed by lobbyists and crooked lawyers
Subsided farming drains the well
Anger and hate begin to swell
Who is to blame
All of us should feel ashamed
For the guilt is owned by people with a common name
Human beings are at fault
Our will has been sold and bought
And now we’re caught
Pointing fingers to blame
Rendering nothing taught
Half the world will be in flames
And flowing from my tap
Not a tragedy or mishap
And I’m not drinking it
I’m not going to sit here
And take it
It is time
To right or wrongs
Heal our past crimes
To no longer prolong or continue to permit
The deconstruction of our planet
I’m not drinking it…
Please go here to see the full photo-essay version of SMoC: Who Says Kansas Is Flat.
Priti Gulati Cox (@PritiGCox) lives in Salina, Kansas.