The trip to Nogales was relatively uneventful until we got to Arizona. That’s where the full impact of the ridiculous things we call borders set in. Driving further south we passed a border patrol checkpoint while nearby an ominous drone flew overhead. The whole area felt as though the U.S. was trying to say “you’re not welcome here,” which in truth is exactly what it’s supposed to say.
When I was a kid I listened to an impassioned sermon from my pastor about the evils of the men and women who purposely go into the desert to remove aid for the people crossing the border. They shoot water jugs and remove food and directional aids but manage to sleep soundly at night convinced they are protecting their country. I couldn’t, and still can’t, fathom the hatred in these people’s hearts that would make such a heinous act seem like an act of patriotism. As we near the border I am struck by the cruelty of their actions all over again. When we stop for gas the heat feels oppressive and it’s impossible to crossing these large expanses of desert with only the supplies you can carry.
There is a great contrast on this ride between the beauty of the land and the peril it holds both naturally and as the result of humanity. When did the fear of others begin to trump our basic humanity? When did we lose our empathy as a nation? Of course, people throw out arbitrary dates and false statistics in defense of their xenophobia and to them this seems like a normal response but for me it’s impossible to imagine the hate. Does it eat them alive on the inside? Does it seep into their everyday lives without their knowledge? These questions stick to me as we wind our way to the house where we will stay for the duration of our time in Nogales.
It doesn’t help that I am reading Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean, which confronts similar questions in the context of the death penalty. In the book she discusses aptly how there is a side to everything and to be certain that’s true. There’s more to the issue than what we’ve scratched off the surface.