I took a drive south of Yuma today to present my children's music program. A few miles before I reached the town of San Luis, I caught a glimpse of the border wall. It followed the road almost all the way into town. White pickup trucks drove the frontage along it. I imagine they were border patrol.
I don't have much love for the border wall. It just seems like an incredibly dumb idea and a waste of valuable resources. Like so many other bad ideas, the expansion of the border wall appears to be motivated by fear and selfishness. Why is my country so determined to keep brown-skinned people out? I look around here, and I see that it's almost all brown-skinned people working in the fields. The white people around here are mostly retirees or younger people working service industry jobs.
I've been in Yuma County for two full days. I've been stopped at a border control checkpoint both days. I haven't tried to cross any borders. The checkpoint conversation is mind-bogglingly unnecessary:
"Of what nation are you a citizen?"
"The United States."
I've got nothing against these border patrol agents. They're young men doing their jobs. It's just too bad we can't put all that energy and strength into something more meaningful. In fact, I think it's tragic.
Being near the border wall, I don't feel like I'm in a free country anymore. It reminds me of the fact that the United States of America is the most militarized nation the world has ever seen. I am not expressing an opinion: It is a fact. We spend more money on military than any nation on Earth. Now we've gone and turned our country into a big gated community.
Don't kid yourself about this: Militarization is not the source of our affluence or our freedom.
At the library in San Luis I sang to a small group of children. Some did not speak English, and it was very much a challenge for me since I know so little Spanish. But we danced. We sang. We laughed. Music really is a universal language. Near the end of my program I remembered that I knew a translation of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" main verse. I learned it from my daughter's kindergarden teacher a couple years ago. She said she learned it from a record by José-Luis Orozco.
I sang it as well as I could. A librarian and one grandparent sang along. I could see that it mattered a great deal to a few people in that room. It mattered to me.
~Chuck Cheesman, copyright 2012