• Jaime Richards

Clipped Wings and Scanners


The parrot's name is Barco. She lives in a dimly lit, dirt-floored house in an isolated Nicaraguan community called El Progreso. I met her while learning how to prepare tortillas on a skillet over a wood fire. "Why doesn't she fly away?" someone from our visiting Bay Area group wondered.

"Her wings are clipped."

Pitiably, they were. She'd flap them furiously, but she wasn't going anywhere. It hurt my heart. There's something terribly sad about a bird that can't fly. Barco, I thought, is a metaphor for the people of El Progreso. Their wings, too, had been clipped. I looked around at the economic poverty that engulfs the region. Just like Barco, the students enrolled at Escuela El Progreso can flap their wings as hard as they're able and, odds are, they'll never fly far from where they are now. Their wings were clipped at birth by fate. Theoretically, American students' wings are fine. There is no reason our kids shouldn't soar, and some will. But many won't. They won't because we'll pressure them to clip their wings. We'll weigh them down by limiting their options to only the obvious. The tried and true. The safe and secure.

We'll try to plug them into the kind of lives that have already been created and lived:

  • "Attend college X."

  • "Major in Y."

  • "Work at Z."

One night in Matagalpa, my Nicaraguan amigo, Chamba Acosta, advised our group to "not be a scanner." In other words, why copy something that has already been done? The possibilities for how to live a life are limitless. We shouldn't clip or own wings. Or anybody else's.