Labor Camps in the World of Divided
I know one of the biggest questions I’m going to get is why use labor camps imprisoning generations in the Divided series? Why be so harsh? These aren't quite like the chattel slavery of the US's past in that the camps don't target people by ethnicity. Surely, we’ve come further than this as a society and won’t fall back into human beings being born into imprisonment?
While I really love the heart behind all those questions, I can’t help but look at our society, especially in the year 2021, and realize that maybe we haven’t come as far as we think. Yet, in those days, I heard the hatred, fear, and prejudice that calls their hearts home. Political lines and lines of ideology now divide the US even more than ethnic lines. We, as a society, have not learned how to play well in the sandbox with each other. Nor have we learned how to argue honorably and to disagree without becoming disagreeable.
Have you ever been driving in your city and realized, “Wow, I’m in a different neighborhood”? In my hometown, neighborhoods can switch at a corner. When we were moving up here from Nashville, we were told, “don’t live south of here” or “stay away from such-and-so” road.
Why is that?
People have this unfortunate tendency to want to live in an area that’s comfortable for them socially and culturally. As a result, we live around people who “resemble” us in key ways - socio-economic, educational status, ethnicity, or political ideas. We insulate ourselves from opinions or ideas or people that may threaten our own sense of psychological security. I do it, you probably do it. We all do it to some degree.
If you supported one political candidate in this last election, how shocked were you to realize one of your close neighbors supported the "other" side, whichever side that might be? Did it make you question how they could see the world that way?
I watched this very situation play out over social media and in town hall discussions for months. People who under other circumstances were boringly “normal” erupted into violent debate, shouting matches and unmasked vitriol, revealing the darkness inside.
And this darkness, left unchecked, is what leads one person to try to control the actions and life of another. And the logical end of the need to control is oppression and enslavement.
It is for those reasons that I include a labor camp into our nation's near future, though with two critical changes. First, the Martin dictatorship imprisons people from all ethnicities. Their political rebellion, or even seeming rebellion, is what makes them a candidate for the labor camps. Second, like the modern-day work camps in North Korea, Martin's government controls the labor camps, rather than individuals (like the history of slavery in the US). Simply put, I felt a cruel, narcissistic dictator would never allow another person to hold concentrated power within his realm. He would want to be the one with all the power.
Those differences notwithstanding, the hatred in our hearts, if taken to its logical conclusion, will lead us to a future as dark as our past.
We have the seeds of Divided in our current culture today. At some times, I wonder if we have maybe more than the seeds, if perhaps foot-tall weeds have grown and are ready to spawn more weeds when a good wind blows.
And unless we do something soon to change our trajectory, we’ll end up captive as a society to the oppression and darkness that live inside our hearts. My use of labor camps in a book centered on ethnic reconciliation and fixing societal divisions is an intentional wake-up call.
Are you willing to face the darkness inside your heart today? As hard as it has been for me, I know we all must, or we'll be imprisoned to that darkness in reality.