Tag Archives: media

Journalism, Success, and the Border

I’ve always tried to live according to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” It’s a simple quote but a high order. To me it means putting aside worldly things like money and consumerist success in favor of holding myself to the standard of helping others, even if helping is just being present with someone.

When I was very young I realized that my general fear of blood and distress in the field of mathematics meant that I would never be a doctor or a nurse. But when I went to Guatemala in tenth grade I learned that there are many ways to help that don’t require a medical license. It was there I decided to become a journalist.

A shrine for the migrants.
A shrine for the migrants.

While in Guatemala I read a book called Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti by Gerry Hadden. The book opened my eyes to the world of journalism and the realities of Latin America. Realities that paralleled what I was seeing in the community I was living with. For the first time I felt like there was something I could do to help: write. Visiting the border has only reaffirmed that calling.

The border for me serves as a reminder of what happens when the media capitalizes on fear. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is an old journalism adage. I think it is an outdated motto that has unfortunately taken over the journalism world in an effort to keep afloat in an era of citizen journalism. The border reminds me of what happens when journalists fail to report on people. When we dehumanize people because they don’t come from our country, we overlook the human rights violations in favor of supporting our own interests. I hope to be someone who helps change that or who at the very least manages to remind people that there is a world outside our individual bubbles. A world that is crying because of the death and destruction we choose to ignore.

The Good Samaritan Retold

The abuses by the U.S. Government in foreign countries are well documented if under-reported by the media. They generally occur in militarized areas and the border is no exception. It was here that Jose Antonio lost his life at the hands of a border patrol agent.
Jose Antonio was a regular kid until he, through death, became the center of an international conflict (conflict in this instance referring to conflicting ideologies and laws, not war or military incidents). He was shot while he was out walking by a border patrol agent* who claims someone was tossing rocks at the wall to distract attention from drug runners hopping the fence back into Mexico. The officer, from the U.S. side, emptied his entire clip into Antonio before reloading and firing several more shots. Without a warrant. Without a warning. And without justification.

A ripped poster of Jose Antonio and art are visible in Nogales, Mexico
A ripped poster of Jose Antonio and art are visible in Nogales, Mexico

The officer claims that because Jose Antonio was walking on the Mexican side, he and his family have no legal standing for either a criminal or a civil suit. While the family has successfully seen both cases go before a judge, both suits are pending (the government has agreed to prosecute the officer but maintains no wrongdoing was committed). A small statue of a cross marks the place where Antonio took his last breath.
Over the past few days I’ve been contemplating the story of the Good Samaritan in the context of this abhorrent crime. It was pointed out to me recently that while the Good Samaritan story has often been interpreted as a parable about treating neighbors with kindness, it is also a critique of law. When the priest and the Levite passed the dying man, they were simply following the laws of cleanliness. Their actions are not unkind, they are in fact righteous in the context of their law.
The failure of U.S. Government to do anything on Jose Antonio’s behalf is an example of the passive excuse: “I was just following the rules”. But for a country founded on the idea of liberty and in protest of unfair laws, isn’t it ironic that the response has been so passive?
It seems callous to say that I am not a part of the problem. On our desert walk the leader said “We would not have a wall if we didn’t have walls in here” as he pointed to his ears. What walls have we placed between us and reality to ignore the world and all of the pain in it? What unjust laws do we follow blindly because we either don’t know about them or choose to ignore them in favor of blissful ignorance?

The Wall of Misinformation

A wall, a division, a separation, a classic us versus them represented in a physical object. The insanity of trying to build a wall isn’t lost on me and so, armed with a little bit of wifi I compiled a list of 4 reasons why the wall is not only idiotic but ultimately destructive.
1. It violates a major treaty

The Treaty of November 23, 1970 served as the final say in the territorial lines between Mexico and the U.S. Building a longer wall would only create more problems in terms of territory. For example, the treaty stipulates that within a certain distance of the border nothing can interfere with the flow of water, a wall would without a doubt do just that.

A small child facing down a grim reaper in the background is placed on the border with the fence in the background to illustrate the dangers of crossing.
A small child facing down a grim reaper in the background is placed on the border with the fence in the background to illustrate the dangers of crossing.

2. It is a logistical nightmare*

3. It’s an economic nightmare*

4. What other countries have walls
Take a minute and think about other countries with prominent walls either in their history or currently in effect. Three main walls come to mind: the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea. When most people think of the Great Wall of China they think of the monumental wall that has become a symbol of China’s history and a popular tourist attraction. The simple fact is that the Great Wall was built by a conscripted labor force too poor to protest. The more historically conscious the world becomes, the more people begin the recognize the unjust conditions under which this wall was built. The Berlin Wall and the Demilitarized Zone (which isn’t a wall by engineering standards but is still a strictly enforced border that holds to some of the same concepts as the proposed wall between Mexico and the U.S.) both have histories deeply intertwined with violence. Given these prominent examples it’s hard to imagine such a historically and symbolically violent image being associated with the U.S

*Because my understanding of these topics is not quite as nuanced nor do I have the authority to speak to the subjects at any great length, I have attached articles to explain these reasons.

First Day Nerves and a New Adventure

Sitting down to write this blog I feel just as awkward as I did at the start of Welcome Week. It’s the first day of school jitters all over again. And what’s worse is they don’t go away unless you lock onto a tiny bit of courage and introduce yourself. So hi, my name is Rachel O’Neal. I’m a Journalism and International Relations (I.R.) double major. My favorite color is black, my favorite animal is a bison, and I have 6 siblings. Good, now that we have the basics out of the way let’s talk about Backpack Journalism.

While I came to Creighton with the intention of declaring a double major in Journalism and I.R., I heard about the Backpack program long before I became a Journalism major. My freshman faculty advisor was actually the first person to suggest this program because he knew I had a passion for telling stories (the truthful kind). I immediately decided that at some point during my 4 years at Creighton I would go on one of these trips. The fact that this particular trip happens to connect with an issue I am passionate about – immigration – was just an added bonus.

Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com
Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com

Growing up in California it’s hard to ignore the reality of an unjust immigration system. Families are torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) on a daily basis. On Sundays families and interfaith groups gather to protest I.C.E. holding centers with candlelight vigils. And the list of these types of events goes on. What people fail to understand when they watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh is that the people these so-called journalists spew hatred about are living, breathing human beings. Undocumented workers aren’t statistics to be used to fear monger. They’re people just like you and me.

As a Jesuit University its imperative that we address this topic so that people understand what respect for human dignity truly means. It’s not a sermon to be given on Sunday and promptly forgotten on Monday. It’s a lifestyle. Recognizing that no human is illegal is fundamental to this tenet of Jesuit Catholicism, which is why I am excited to be a part of this journey.