Tag Archives: Piper Kerman

Orange Is The New Red, White And Blue

Orange Is The New Black was a television series based on the book by Piper Kerman about her year in a women’s prison. The first 3 (out of 7) seasons are harsh with guards wielding power and inmates targeting each other. The show also celebrates the bonds that develop among the women prisoners. The inmates are troubled and rageful, decent and dignified, kind and thoughtful, entitled and narcissistic. Through the harsh, their relationships are strong, moving, even uplifting. 

Then season 4 (2016, the beginning of the Trump Era) brings harsh to a new level.

The prison becomes overcrowded as the owners pledge allegiance not to the humane treatment of the prisoners, but instead to their own economic bottom line. Money and Power are the driving forces behind all decisions, unchecked by a conscience. The new warden, unqualified and flailing, hires a group of guards who are even more unqualified. They have no idea how to sustain order and safety, and resort to school yard bullying to exert control. Worse, the warden then hires a guard who turns out to be a hit-man. 

The lust for power is contagious and the prisoners, already divided by racial heritage, begin a pointless turf war. One woman ends up in solitary confinement, emotionally broken. Another woman is gagged, restrained and branded (not a metaphor, literally branded). One of the woman prisoners — beloved by inmates, guards and TV audiences alike — is killed in an incident disturbingly reminiscent of George Floyd’s murder. Another guard forces a prisoner to act like an animal, and then rapes her. A third guard tortures women inmates. A fourth forces a prisoner to eat a live rodent (again, not a metaphor).

Impulses unchecked. Pack mentality. Violence erupting. Prisoners in a cage.

It’s just a TV show, right?

Wrong. Welcome to January 6, 2021.

The footage from the January 6, 2021, insurrection is raw. There are no clever camera angles, no artistic lighting, no adrenaline-rush background music. This is a mob, assaultive, out of control, chanting death threats, out for blood, a hostile takeover. 

Impulses unchecked. Pack mentality. Violence erupting. Prisoners in a cage.

Prisoners in a cage?

Actually, yes.

As I write this post, the aftermath continues, and I’m thinking of Orange Is The New Black. Cages come in many forms, many shapes, many sizes. People who support the insurrection, who twist accountability into something unrecognizable, are trapped in cages of their own creation. Whether they realize it or not, these people have the keys to their own cages. But will they unlock their own prisons? I don’t know, because their keys are made not of metal, but of accountability, decency, integrity, the capacity to admit they’ve made a terrible mistake.

In the final episode of Orange Is The New Black, the “prisoners” exit the set, waving and smiling, some graceful and others charmingly awkward. The series is finished, on to the next project, out of prison. But with the insurrectionists, using their keys to let themselves out of their personal prisons isn’t so simple. In Piper Kerman’s words from her book: “…some people were way too comfortable in prison. They seemed to have forgotten the world that exists on the outside….The truth is, the prison and its residents fill your thoughts, and it’s hard to remember what it’s like to be free.…”

I hope the insurrectionists, along with their supporters, remember soon. I hope they find within themselves the ability to stop, dig deep, reconsider. From sea to shining sea, I hope they find a path to reach for the dawn’s early light. 


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