Border talk

March 20,2017

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As Donald Trump’s sordid vision of a “big, beautiful wall” on the US-Mexico border begins to take shape, The Guardian has revealed that - of the more than 600 companies currently vying to get in on the wall-building action – 10 percent are identified as “Hispanic-American-owned” businesses.

Posing a greater ethical dilemma, perhaps, is the potential opportunity for Mexican cement manufacturing giant Cemex to profit handsomely from manic border fortification efforts. The firm has seen its shares leap in value since Trump’s election.

Indeed, in a world ever more committed to walls, barriers, and the profitability of exclusion, it seems ethical boundaries are the easiest to knock down. Frequently lost in all of the ‘big wall’ talk is the fact that there is already a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Now that Trump has two feet planted firmly in the White House and xenophobia has been embraced as a mark of national pride, you might say we’ve definitively crossed the border into a state of upbeat sociopathy.

The increasingly militarised landscape of the US-Mexico frontier serves a variety of pernicious functions.

The obsession with border ‘security’ helps to sustain the notion that the US is somehow under attack by migrants from Mexico and Central America.

The effective criminalisation of migrants for pursuing a dignified existence translates into an existential hazard, and an untold number of travellers have perished at the mercy of the elements while endeavouring to navigate the border region’s hostile terrain.

Migrants also run the risk of being kidnapped, murdered, raped, extorted, and otherwise abused in transit – a risk that exists purely because, as global have-nots, they’re denied many options for “legal” movement between countries and thus rendered even more vulnerable to exploitation.

According to a 2013 Amnesty International report, “it is believed that as many as six out of every 10 migrant women and girls experience sexual violence during the journey”.

But who in the US has time for empathy when our country is under migrant siege?

Since the border wall is designed to block human movement in only one direction, I, as an American citizen, am permitted easy access to Mexican territory.

From my present location on the Yucatan peninsula, I can report that there are, in fact, certain Americans residing in Mexico who apparently detect no irony in verbalising their support for Trump or referring to undocumented Mexicans in the US as “illegals”.

A bigger and better wall will no doubt further facilitate the job of persons intent on upholding the standards of imperial hubris.

Beyond the actual physical barrier, there’s also a significant psychological dimension to the wall, which operates as a conferrer of value upon human life and skews the results in favour of those lives north of the line.

Meanwhile, the climate of fear perpetuated by militarisation schemes helps justify the schemes themselves, in addition to distracting popular attention from national defects.

On a bus the other day, I chatted with a Mexican American man who resented the idea that his mother -herself a resident of the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo – could be deemed a security threat and potential “invader” in the eyes of “Caligula”, as he referred to Trump.

The man reasoned that, were the US concerned about invasions, it should perhaps stop invading other countries.

But that, of course, would cramp America’s style and ruin the good old tradition of having one’s cake and eating it, too. Unfortunately, cake and ethics don’t mix.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Fear and loathing on the border’.



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