Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Between Suicide and Murder, Part One

American Mind
Border Fence

A report from the Southern border.

Editors’ Note

The American Mind is pleased to present this exclusive report from both sides of the Southern border.

The Mexican didn’t even take off his shoes before he waded through the brown waters of the Rio Grande. He was fully clothed as he trudged toward the other side of the riverbank where a breach in the border was visible. When he was once again on dry land, he excitedly skipped around and waved his arms to encourage vocal support from an eager audience. Everyone obligingly cheered and whistled for his success—as these spectators had a common interest. He then gave his farewell salute while slipping through the oval hole in the chain-link fence before disappearing around a dune: another migrant had escaped his geographic womb and entered the land of promise, America.

Or so everyone thought.

The Mexican soon reappeared, desperately sprinting back to Mexico in retreat, his wet back now turned against his anticipated future. Behind him a border patrol truck pursued. The runner’s complete reversal in direction, and his change in demeanor from cocky to terrified, had such a slapstick irony that everyone laughed. The man was laughing too as he dove dramatically back into sovereign Mexico, a needless performance only done for our entertainment. His friends scuttled over with irrepressible classroom giggles and handed him a bottle of cold beer. They jeered and celebrated—approving his courage, mocking his failure—with gestures that could only mean: “Better luck next time, amigo.”

***

There is very little to say about the America-Mexico border that hasn’t been said already. There are more than enough documented facts to enable anyone to form an opinion. Examples of criminality and misery are easy for every kind of politically-motivated observer to reach out and snatch. But I was surprised at the sheer amount of fun people were having on this strip of scorched dirt where the Rio Grande snakes between Juárez and El Paso.

Here border crossing becomes a kind of schoolyard game, most often with a division between those who chase and those who flee. I decided to play the fleeing migrant. I made a very slow and exaggeratedly long step across the state line, which was like the lunge of some kind of Hispanic astronaut. The American patroller moved toward me. For a moment I was in danger of being caught. I recoiled one step. I was safe again. It was silly. It was fun.

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