My long-term academic career has taken me to Philadelphia, a sanctuary city, but I am a native Texan and own desert land outside scenic Marfa, Texas. Famed for its modern art installations and where James Dean starred in his last movie, Marfa is about 60 miles north of the Texas-Mexico border. Along with my many road trips in the desert southwest, I am therefore a frequent visitor to border regions and have passed through numerous check points, some of which are located 50 miles or more inside the U.S. border. As a native Texan, I feel anger, shame, and sadness at what is happening on the border in my home state.
Over the past 25 years, I have watched the border patrol issues slowly escalate, with more agents and more aggressive checkpoints, along with the militarization of a huge swath of southwest America. This escalation happened regardless of which party was in the White House. That’s why the border crisis did not begin with President Trump, but his administration has ramped it up massively, with the full support of creationist Vice-President, Mike Pence. In Texas, these policies have the near-complete support of evangelical Governor Greg Abbott and his loyalists. Re-uniting immigrant and refugee families is important, but, sadly, it won’t change much of anything long-term regarding the border situation.
No Longer Silent
I can’t, in good conscience, go about my daily life and academic career without expressing my absolute philosophical resistance to this absurdity—while news pundits split hairs “debating” the issue and legality of what is nothing less than a police-state across a huge swath of the southwest and all cities where ICE operates. What follows is why I oppose the U.S. border policies.
1. We’re building a police-state
As a secularist, it is clear the U.S. border policies represent: a) an assault on universal human rights and freedom of movement, b) the ideology of a police-state fueled by a nationalist-religious-racist fervor. That’s where we’re at. I’ve seen it, I grew up in Texas, its been building for decades in America. Don’t let your hopeful belief in some kind of inherent goodness in American democracy keep you in denial. Rolling back this militarized police power is a massive challenge, perhaps impossible.
2. The U.S. border policies are partially based in the failed drug war and the ongoing terror war
These wars have eviscerated much of the Bill of Rights, especially the 4th Amendment. The drug war goes back to 1967 and the Summer of Love, when LSD and “free love” were threats to the Cold War ideologies of God, America, and nuclear families. Obviously, the terror war traces to September 11, 2001.
3. The Wall is a crime against beauty and nature
The desert landscapes of the Southwest are incredibly beautiful, yet now feature a war zone, which also disrupts the migration patterns of numerous species. The human species also traversed across these lands long before “America” arrived. It’s likely there will be a complete Wall running 2000 miles from San Diego to Brownsville. Long-term, America won’t last and Trump’s Wall will be a graffiti-covered relic, and eventually a ruin eroding back into the desert sands.
4. The border policies are based in a myth
Ultimately, the U.S. border policies are based in the colonization myth of a pure America supposedly ordained by God to rule the territory now known as the “United States of America.” This is a complete utopian fantasy made up to justify the theological and corporate conquest of “America” by imported ideologies — supposedly in the name of progress and religious freedom, yet which powered the near-genocide of Native Americans while permitting the slavery of African-Americans for centuries. This myth has evolved into a 21st-century nationalist religion, supported by blind patriotism, militarized police, and systemic racism. Everything at the border follows from this myth.
Ultimately, the policies are absurd
As an existentialist, I find no meaning or joy or pride in any of the theism, racism, patriotism, and nationalism that support the border policies. To me, the policies are not merely inhumane, they are absurd and insane.
As with the Trump administration, there is no real merit in debating select policies — the entire Revelation-Disney ideologies of Trump and the border are the danger and I reject them in their totality. I invite the sympathetic reader to do the same.
For the Record #1: I’ve Been Harassed by Border Patrol Agents
1) A Border Patrol agent directed his German shepherd to jump on the hood of my Jeep during a routine checkpoint stop, while another asked me trick questions hoping to trigger a reason to search my vehicle. Another stood by holding a machine gun. My Big City East Coast girlfriend was shocked and livid, having her urban eyes opened to the border reality.
2) At a remote checkpoint, my car and trunk were searched because a drug-sniffing dog supposedly smelled something in my trunk. After opening my trunk, the dog jumped inside frantically. While I nervously sat behind the wheel, the agents rummaged though my trunk, but let me go. No warrant, no rights, no one else around—I was completely at the mercy of two agents in the middle of the desert. When they asked for ID, I made sure they saw my grad student ID from UT-Austin, at least letting them know I probably knew I was supposed to have some rights.
3) Early one morning, I was pulled over by a Border Patrol agent for “speeding” as I was leaving Big Bend National Park because my speed seemed “suspicious.” Of course, he had no radar, he was just making it up so he could do a visual inspection inside my Jeep.
As you can see, I am a white dude. Imagine what they are doing to others who don’t look like me.
For the Record #2: I Reject the Myth
In NASA’s observable universe of two trillion galaxies and three sextillion stars stretching across 100 billion light years, I’m told the supposed Creator of all this vastness dropped off his son and a cosmic behavioral plan for a single species on a tiny planet, delievered 2000 years ago to a few agarian dudes in a pre-scientific society. Seriously, I am supposed to accept this uncritically—as a person whose profession is to think critically? And ignore the mass slaughters and inquisitions done in the name of this myth? And support a wall along a river? And support the separation of immigrant-refugee children and parents. And obey the police-state? Sorry, that’s the doublethink Orwell warned us about.
Rather, I reject this deluded cosmic narcissism. I embrace my cosmic insignificance and our evolutionary role on Earth—a tiny planet upon which sometimes-intelligent life has evolved. We’re tiny, but can be creative and very brainy, when we try. We should eliminate these nationalist borders and build a secular, sustainable planetary civilization that recognizes universal rights and protects the ecosystems upon which life depends—while we search for our meaning and destiny in the universe. NASA, America’s national park system, and the First Amendment are good starts in that long evolutionary process.
Barry Vacker is the co-editor of Black Mirror and Critical Media Theory (Lexington, Fall 2018).