It’s been a while since I have posted, which is partially because for the first week and a half of February I went on a paseo with my YAGMexico group to Arizona. We were at the border of Douglas, AZ, and Agua Prieta, Mexico for part of our time and we were also able to be in Tuscon for a few days, meeting with organizations working with migrants or immigration issues. I have to be quite honest- this trip wrecked me- emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am still grappling with things seen, heard, and witnessed while there. I am back in Mexico now, trying to make sense of it all and I feel numbed after a week of feeling such intense feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and confusion at the injustices and heartbreaking occurrences taking place at our border and in our country. This is the first of what I am guessing will probably be a few different posts about this trip. (these posts aren’t meant to raise political argument but rather just to display my own personal experiences and feelings through what I have felt and witnessed.)
One day of our paseo we were taken to the desert on the Agua Prieta side of the U.S./Mexico frontera so we could walk to the border wall separating the countries into two lados (sides). I will never adequately be able to express the intensity and surreal sensation it is to walk among the same desert paths as those literally risking their lives trying to reach the other side of a wall that represents hope for a better life for them. And realizing as you walk these same paths that this path will never mean the same thing to you as it does for them simply because of the side of the wall you were born on: the side of privilege.
As we walked our way through the desert we were accompanied by a few men from a center we visited earlier in the day that bring big jugs of water into the desert for those trying to cross. These men (two about in their 50s/60s, one about in his 30s, and a little boy probably about 6 years old), accompanied by their little dog Paco, were all Mexican citizens, born on the Agua Prieta side of the border wall. We made our journey through the desert with them, which made it an even more special experience being able to share that space with them; but it also made my privilege that much more apparent to me, knowing that I could cross that fence and nothing whatsoever would happen to me but that wall is something else altogether for them. It is a barrier, a blockade, a symbol of discrimination and human fear targeted at them, a challenge against freedom, and a painful reminder of the “us versus them” attitude that has been cultivated between our countries.
I realized while we walked through the rust colored sand and prickly bushes that this journey is a holy pilgrimage of sorts for those who try to cross. A trek through tiring and dangerous terrains with the hope of better things on the other side. A homage to their families and loved ones to try and devote their life to providing more or to seek refuge and peace away from violence experienced in their everyday lives. This is no criminal act. This is a sacrifice-leaving behind family, friends, and communities they love for a time-period unknown to them; it is a humbling and dangerous pilgrimage that hundreds and thousands are losing their lives for every year. *
When we got to the wall, I was more than unimpressed with its physical structure (can’t believe how much money we are spending on these structures, honestly). But I was overcome with anger touching the tall metal poles as I could see through the slats to the other side in plain sight. The other side looked exactly the same. Exactly the same. I grew even more frustrated as I looked up at the perfectly blue sky above us. The expanse above us and around us within the desert: all of this Holy Nature created by God to unify us as a people. As His beloved children. But I didn’t feel unified. I felt miles away. I felt human fear and sin and discrimination in the form of a metal border wall, hot upon my hands. I felt pissed off.
How did we get to this point as a nation?…
And as I was thinking and feeling all of this, I looked in front of me and I saw Paco, the dog, roaming freely on the U.S side of the wall. He was small enough he could literally just walk between the poles to the other side. There he was, running around blissfully and ignorantly because he could. Then I felt hot tears come to my eyes. This dog, an animal, has more freedom than we have as humans. A dog has more freedom than our Mexican citizen neighbors. We have ruined freedom and unity with human fear of “the other.” (I am aware of other complexities of the situation but for me this is what it boils down to. We can’t just blame this wall on Cartel and drug trafficking or “American job stealing” and “draining our economy” because these aren’t really common realities- I will touch on this in another blog post…)
After being at the wall for a while we opened up into a time of sharing our thoughts and Raul, one of the men with us from Mexico, proceeded to tell us about how he had seen three different walls put up in that location during his lifetime- each time bigger and heavier. He told us he has seen these walls come down and he still prays that there will be a day where they fall down for good like the walls of Babel in biblical times. It just made me think… We, as twenty-first century humans, think we have progressed so much and are in a great modern state of being, but in some ways (like the border wall and the militarization of our border) we are still stuck in ancient times, perpetuating ancient “remedies” for human fear of what is different than ourselves.
We got back to our vans after our trek back and Heidi, the leader of YAGM who accompanied us on our viaje, lead us all in prayer. All of us were altogether- United States citizens, Mexican citizens, young, old, and everything in-between,joined in hands in prayer. All of us beloved children of God. And I began to weep hot tears as Heidi prayed. They wouldn’t stop flowing. Because it hit me that on this side of that stupid wall we could all pray together, in unity, as precious children of God but that wasn’t even a possibility on the other side- on the side of “privilege.” This wall creates hate, death, and misunderstanding among our sisters and brothers in Christ. People among my communities where I live now. Family and friends whom I love.People who have taken me in with great love even though I was a stranger from the United States. People with whom I wish I could casually just invite to visit me when I leave my time here but I know that isn’t even possible for some.
When is “loving your neighbor” no longer enough?… I am tired of inactive love of our Mexican neighbors.
I pray these walls will come crumbling down as the product of Godly, active love of our neighbors.
*[We were also walking the desert the day before Ash Wednesday which yielded a whole other significance in itself, thinking about Jesus’ time of 40 days in the desert and also reflecting upon the verses of Ezekiel 27:1-14, The Valley of Dry Bones takes on a whole new meaning…”Then he said to me, ‘Mortal these bones are the whole house of Israel.’ They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord your God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord… “]
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust- we are all children of God. From ashes you have come and to ashes you shall return.