As we sat in the empty bar, I could tell the bartender was bothered. She paced back and forth, then walked our way.
“Any of you know how to fold a flag?”
I turned to my buddy as he responded, “I used to be a boy scout. I think I can still fold one.” The bartender took a deep breath. “I just can’t stand seeing a flag on the ground.”
We walked to the front of the bar to find the star and stripes pushed under a dank table. My friend leaned over and whispered, “Her son’s been in Afghanistan over a year now.”
Ever since the election, I’ve struggled to reconcile my place here in Tennessee. I remember waking up the morning after in a daze. Did that really happen? But how? How could we let fear and anger push us here?
It’s easy to be mad. And I was. But that feeling was replaced by mourning. The great American experiment had taken a new turn—one that showed the true colors of its people. I mourn because I know that my neighbors are not my enemy. Republicans aren’t my enemy, nor are the Democrats. It’s easy to demonize those that you disagree with, but how do we live amongst each other? How do we commune with each other, rather than running to our respective tribes?
At some point we lost our way. Or maybe we’ve always been a pack of warring tribes. “Thy Neighbor” is an attempt to reconcile my place among my people—the American people. It’s easy to be angry. It’s much harder to find a tie that binds us.
Hardin’s series The 13th Spring won the Fine Art category in last year’s Magnum Photography Awards. This project is still in process. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work, please visit his website or Instagram.
Magnum Photos wants to see your work! This year’s Magnum Awards are now open for entries—submit your work for a chance to be recognized by leaders in the photographic community from National Geographic, Aperture, Magnum, LensCulture, and more. You can also check out the jury and prizes for the Magnum Awards 2017 on its Call for Entries page.