Never does the U.S.-Mexico border seem so arbitrary and ridiculous as when you’re looking right at it. Or rather, I should say, through it. Because for a long stretch at the AZ-CA border, the border “wall” is a metal mesh fence, and the desert on one side of it is identical to the desert on the other side of it: hot, barren, and forbidding. Honestly, anyone who attempts to cross the border there, and who actually manages it and is still breathing when they get here (which is often not the case, tragically) should be welcomed with open arms, because they are some of the most determined, hard-working people in the world, and we’d do well to invite them in.
The thing is, not only is the environment identical on both sides of the fence, but the culture is, too. This is a Mexican part of the world, with a long and complex history, where you’re as likely to hear Spanish in public as English, and if one day’s sampling has any merit at all, more likely. I know a lot of people have a problem with that; I’m not one of them because a) I speak Spanish, and b) I’m fully aware of the history of my country, this part in particular, and to expect Anglo culture and language to hold sway here is to be clueless on multiple levels.
That is to say, these dotted lines only exist on maps. We all know that, and yet we want to enforce them as if they’re real. But there is no substantive difference between “here” and “there.”
What difference people care to argue arises from a philosophy of scarcity and delusional proprietary concerns, as if anyone can really own the earth that will claim every last one of us in the end; as if we can deny the natural migration of all species, including bipeds, that has been happening since the beginning of life on this planet. It is the nature of all living things to situate themselves where the most resources are available. It will always be so. Anyone who dreams otherwise also thinks that we can get people to stop having sex, stop being gay, work themselves to exhaustion trying to get some peace, and starve themselves into health, never understanding that any law, rule, habit, or tradition that runs counter to the way humans actually operate, and have always operated, is destined to be an expensive, painful failure.
We have unprecedented border security, in personnel and physical obstacles, and yet still they come, because humans are the most adaptable animal on the planet, and we don’t take kindly to impediments to our getting what we need and want. It merely makes us more determined to get past them.
If, instead of operating in service to questionable, impractical ideas that never were and never will be, from immigration policy to environmental oversight to sex ed, we chose to see ourselves, and the world we create, as we truly are and always have been, there would be some hope that we could formulate sane policy and procedures that make life better for all involved.
But if we keep pretending that deep down, we are something entirely other than how we act every day, century after century, then we will keep building fences in the vast, empty desert that will keep no one out, not even the sands of the Sonoran Desert that sift through these Ozymandian walls in any and all directions at will. The land itself moves freely across our imagined borders, but the people on it cannot.