Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fly on the Wall

By Adrienne Evans

TERLINGUA, September 4 - I arrived late for the August 24-28, 2008 Peace and Unity March against the border wall. I got there on Sunday, the last day.

The march that had started on Wednesday and gone 57 miles along the future route of the border wall in far west Texas. Being that late, and having not been that close to the actual border wall before, I was feeling almost like a "fly on the wall," having almost an out-of-body experience and getting a physical, psychological, and spiritual shock at the sight of the ugly wall. It's one thing to see a picture of it; it's another to see it up close, to touch it.

I parked hurriedly, spotting the rally in progress a hundred yards up the mountain in Sunland Park at the border wall there. I started up the hill, joining a journalist as we walked to join the group of 200 people present on both sides of the wall, most kneeling in the dust of the Border Patrol's road alongside the American side of the wall, in the shadow of the camera towers. It was a somber scene, full of the intensity of those who had marched, and the silent recognition by the rest of us of their effort.

Smudge pots by Native American elders burning, most heads bowed, blue, yellow and white butterflies flying up and hitting the wall and falling back over and over, the tired marchers standing a bit apart from the rest of us, the Mexican people gazing through the heavy mesh of the fence as the prayer ended at our sad faces and our signs that proclaimed our friendship and the injustice of a border wall, the indigenous drum beat THRUM-THRUM-THRUM, the sudden, loud call of the Native American woman as the priest said Amen, the Farm Workers Union leader then speaking of the travesty of this wall, hearts heavy on both sides, the priest asking us all to come up to the wall and touch a "brother and a sister's hand." Which we did, tears flowing on both sides.

Some brave few crested the steep hill where the border wall disappeared into the sky. They waved and shouted before heading back down; an elderly Hispanic man picked up tiny pieces of litter off the ground offering the tired marchers a ride to the parking lot in his truck; others trudging back down, arm in arm, to listen to more speeches as marchers on the U.S. side handed food, clothing and camping equipment over the top of the wall to a small crowd of children. Children as young as four were easily able to reach the top of the wall by standing on each other's shoulders.

We hugged and waved goodbye to our sisters and brothers on both sides of the wall.

That day, the wall was a bridge, not a divider. You could touch someone's fingertips through the mesh. You could look into their eyes. You could walk alongside them and speak. You could pray together. The road alongside the border wall was not a military road Sunday -- it was a church, a holy place; it was a place to kneel and pray. It was a place that the indigenous people could call from to the Great Spirit. The wall became a bridge for those few moments -- but as we looked back, its hideous shape reasserted, a physical reminder of our nation's insecurity, its hatreds, its racism, in the form of a wall that was easily breached, even by children.

Yet the butterflies reminded us how solid the wall was, how impenetrable to the helpless animals. The children, not helpless, calling to us, reminded us that our fancy cars and clothes meant we had something to give that they needed. The march’s leaders and activists on both sides of the wall reminded us of the social injustice of border walls, and that the "March had just begun." The priests reminded us that our brethren on the Mexican side of the wall were no different than we were in the sight of God. Indeed.

The sight of the border wall reminded us of the reality of a wall, how grotesque it really is. How useless, really. While the wall stands, we have a chance to wake up to our own fears and the horrible result of these fears. So go see the wall, and symbolically write your own fears, your own hatred, your own racism, upon its surface, as I did last Sunday. Release your fears and be done with them. Lay flowers there. Pray. Watch the butterflies smack against it. Watch the children, laughingly, climb it in five seconds.

The day the wall comes down, we will recognize those fears fully as being exposed and dealt with. We will have overcome them.

Adrienne Evans is a mother, health practitioner and community volunteer who lives in Terlingua, Texas. She is the co-founder of No Wall – Big Bend coalition. For more info, visit http://www.nowallbigbend.blogspot.com/.

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