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Names, they allow us to leave our mark on the world, to claim our work, to define who we are, and to proclaim we were here, we existed.  I was reminded of the importance of names this morning as my train rolled into the NYC station.  All along the bridges and walls bordering the track was name after name splashed in graffiti.  Some of the art was amateur scribblings while some was the handiwork of a master artist.  Most names were pseudonyms or street names but all proclaimed the same fact: this is who I am, notice me, I was here.

The same goes with attaching our name to something we have written or produced.  For myself I hate putting my name on something that I am not proud of because of how it represents me to others.  Naming, when we do it for ourselves, can be a rewarding and empowering act but when someone else does the naming for us, it can be an act of violation and degradation.

I spent some time last March in the Sonoran desert along the U.S./Mexico border and was absolutely astounded by the vast amount of human rights violations, racist policies, and inhumane tactics that were commonplace there.  A wall literally and figuratively cuts through the serene desert landscape.  As I stood staring up at the massive metal barrier in front of me, I wanted to scream in outrage, “Not in my name!”  

The U.S. government claims that the border wall is for America’s safety, to keep out “criminals” and “terrorists.”  Besides the fact that very few (if any) terrorists have ever been caught crossing the border, despite the fact that many men, women, and children die every year crossing the border, and despite the fact that many environmental laws have been broken to build the border wall, the government still has the audacity to say they are building this wall for me, in my name.

I never asked for protection from terrorists in this way (hell, I actually believe that terrorism is largely made up by the U.S. to instill fear in its people but that’s a whole other story).  I never asked for innocent people to be killed. I never asked to keep my brothers and sisters from coming to the U.S.  I never asked for an extremely expensive, wasteful, damaging border to cut through this beautiful land and tear families apart, but nonetheless there it stands in all its horror, in my name.

The cycle is so vicious– people coming to the U.S. due in large part to the U.S.’s policies (think NAFTA) and then these same people being criminalized for trying to escape the vicious world the U.S. has trapped them in.  And all this in my name!  It’s as if the U.S. government took a giant can of spray paint and etched the letters M-e-g-a-n into the border wall.  Never have I been so ashamed to have my name on something.

Here are the names that are truly on the border wall: the names of those who have died crossing.  The stark contrast between the U.S. side of the wall and the Mexico side of the wall in Nogales, Arizona is astounding. The U.S. side is sterile and dark save for the giant stadium lights and video cameras dotted across the desert landscape.  The Mexico side is vibrant, filled with passionate artwork detailing the pain, anger, and hope people carry inside.  And there are the crosses, hundreds of them, imprinted with the names of the dead.  The names of the dead, in my name!

Crosses with the names of those who died crossing. Nogales, Sonora.

Painting of a Border Patrol agent holding a gun to the head of a migrant. Nogales, Sonora.

 

"Power the the People:" Images of hope and frustration on the border wall. Nogales, Sonora.

But don’t think these deaths are accidental…no, they are all part of the macabre plan to keep people out of the United States.  The border walls built through such atrocious mandates as Operation Gatekeeper and Hold the Line purposely dropped off in the Arizona desert.  Why?  Because the desert would act as a natural deterrent to keep people out.  In other words, people would see how treacherous the desert terrain is, would see people die, would experience such trepidation that they would give up, turn around, and not try again.  It seems like the government’s plan is working– it is keeping people out…by killing them. 

Is this truly the cost we are willing to pay to maintain our foolish, empty, worthless “American dream?”  Do we even realize that the border wall itself is nothing more than a billion dollar road block?  As Border Patrol spokesperson Mike Scioli said, “The border wall is a mere speed bump,” sometimes slowing border crossers down by only five seconds.  The current “strategy” is not working and the government knows this.  So what is their solution?  Build more walls, strengthen and expand Border Patrol, and cause more deaths.  How long will this continue, in my name?!    

It is too much for me to bear. I beg of you, open your eyes to what has your name on it. You may not even realize just how many things bear your name until your eyes are blurred by the monstrosity of them. I’m trying to find ways to erase my blood-stained name from these walls and it is nearly impossible. The letters M-e-g-a-n remained engraved all over U.S. policy after U.S. policy, far more times than any graffiti artist has painted their own name on these old train track walls.

For more information about border policies and the border wall visit the following sites:
noborderwall.com
nomoredeaths.org
borderlinks.org
altoarizona.com

Note: The critical situation at the U.S./Mexico border is always on my mind and although there is so much immigration work to do here in NYC, I feel very strongly that I must return to Arizona.  Therefore I am considering spending a month or more in Fall 2012 (directly after my year in NYC is up) volunteering with No More Deaths again or Border Links.

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