Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Border Disconnect: Living with terror, division, death

A glance at the top ten most-viewed El Paso (TX) Times headlines on a September Saturday morning reveals the split-personality of border life in a warzone:

The border "disconnect" has always been a bit disconcerting to me, a newbie on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Literally: within an hour from my front door-- without even using a car or taking a bus-- I can plunge into a large foreign city. If I use a car and city bus, within an hour I can walk down the dust-covered street of an undeveloped barrio neighborhood. I sneak sidelong peeks to avoid looking like a gawker at the homes comprised of loading pallets covered with cardboard.

It's the split personality of living in the border community. A great divide runs through us. This is the line marking the greatest disparity in wealth that's found anywhere in the world.

But in the last few years, as violence has spiraled, the split has taken on an additional darker dimension. How does one live life when surrounded by the horror of daily violence, savagery and death?

The juxtaposition of headlines reveals this new reality. Friday night high school football bumps up next to traumatized children. Kidnappings, slayings and a new wave of violence intermingles with "what to do" this weekend. Life continues amidst terror.

We in El Paso are the horrified bystanders. Hiding behind our border wall, we reassure the world of our "safest city" status. Yet we ache for our family and friends who live in Juarez with car bombs, carjackings, and extortion--all with no recourse. We are afraid to go there now. We don't know what to do.

And life in Juarez continues, as life must continue in any war zone. I sometimes think of the ordinary people of Juarez as "heroes" and then I wonder if I'm too easily dismissing their reality with that thought. You know: call them "heroes" and then move on to other things.

My migratory lifestyle, each year split between the placid Midwest and the bloody Border, only accentuates the disconnect.

There's no easy answer. There is nothing to do but to continue.


Ichabod said...

You called it right. Barrio.

How can people expect to achieve what we consider "middle class" standards when poverty is so prevalent and where the minimum wage is a little over $5 a day where as our auto factory workers make over $50 an hour in wages and benefits.

Even in Mexico one would be hard pressed to survive on five dollars a day. The system breeds corruption, ignorance and fear.

There are many decent, educated and honest people in Mexico and too many who have to resort to crime such as theft or drugs to "make" it like their American counterparts.

Now the cartels are actively engaged in attacking government, taking over villages, blocking highways in and out of Monterrey and kidnapping those with the scent of money, it is not a place I feel comfortable in anymore and I use to love living there.

I would go back but don't know who I could trust and at my age, self defense is more difficult than a man of thirty whose eyes and ears are still working well.

This is a disease which there is no cure for unless the standard of living can be raised honestly.

an average patriot said...

I envy no one that lives on the border on either side. I have a very crazy gun toting brother who owns a nice piece of land on the Arizona side of the border. I think often about how I hope illegals of any sort stay clear of his spread and so far so good.

I know Boehner did it for the votes but he said he would vote for middle class tax cuts if he had to.

a211423 said...

Thank you for the poignant account of life on a border town. People like me have no idea what it's like--now I do. Praises to you and others who attempt to reach out to our neighbors to the south, at least with compassion and understanding.

Border Explorer said...

Thanks so much for adding your thoughts to this post. It's been bubbling in the background of my mind for some time. The top 10 most-viewed article list from Saturday's El Paso Times brought it to a head.

Ichabod, there will be no peace without justice. Thanks for your comments.

Jim, you're very different from your brother. Not easy to have such a values split!

Thanks for your affirmation of the post, a211423! I worried that it was just too angst-filled. The praises rightly belong to the ordinary people of Mexico who carry on bravely in the face of ruthlessness.