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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Friday, December 21, 2018

Crossing the border

I join the far left of four lanes of a zillion vehicles lined up to leave the promised land and cross into Mexico. 

I’m grateful to have a passenger who is fluent in Spanish, a wonderful activist womon Gabriela, whom I found out is also a lawyer! When we are pulled off out of traffic to the side and directed into the lane where we are to be x-rayed, she whispers to me “don’t argue with them” as she is directed off the truck and to another part of the terminal.

My truck passes through the x-ray machine and the drug-sniffing dog successfully. A young man approaches me and orders me to lift up the back door. I’m like (to myself) you really don’t want me to do that, it’s stuffed full.

When I can only raise it partially, he says no way will I continue into Mexico ordering me to turn around, leave this crossing, re-enter the u.s.ofa. and go to the Otay border crossing, at least 10 miles away. I argue with them. It’s too far away, why should I go stand in line again, why won’t he let me go through?

He tries to tell me I can do it, it’s not that far, when I drop the magic word: Marriott! I tell him I’m staying at the Marriott hotel and that’s only a mile away. I’m old, I’m tired, and I’m here. Besides, I’ve entered Mexico a zillion times and have never been stopped (not true) or directed to yet another post (true.)

He can't believe it and short of calling me a liar, shares his disbelief.

He takes in the goods in the back again, shaking his head and telling me I have to leave. He calls Gaby over from the sidewalk where she’s been anxiously peering across the pavement, telling her we're leaving but no way am  I ready to give up yet.

It occurs to me he thinks the truck is full of stuff so I bring him around to my side door and show him my camper. I tell him this is my home, it is not full of stuff but only half full. He shines his bright light carefully in around the interior and nods quickly once.

He is impressed so I tell him I built this camper myself (sorry Shazam) and that I live on the road. He is wavering, telling me I’ll have to pay taxes on such things. I ask how much and he shrugs and walks away.

Three seconds later he comes over with his boss, a tall authoritative light-skinned guy, who first again looks at the supplies almost tumbling out the back of my truck. Then he starts to tell me we have to go when the first officer tells him to come look at the camper.

He’s shaking his head, not in a friendly nor impressed manner but conveying his disgust. He orders me to open up the back yet again and all of us try to shove things inside as the door releases its hold on the supplies.

He demands to know about clothes. I already know that the Mexican government doesn’t want clothes trashing up their environment (or being sold by gringas on the streets) so I tell him it’s mostly food with a little games for kids, paper cups and plates, stuff like that as I pray a box of diapers or a bag of clothes doesn’t fall out and hit him in the head.

He glares at me and wants to know how come I have so much food and stuff in my truck. I tell him I just left the Bay Area and I’m embarking on a cross-country trip. Coming to Tijuana was just a fluke, a little part of the bigger picture, as we’re curious about Mexico. Gaby nods enthusiastically right on clue as if we planned it this way.

“Why do you have all this food,” he wants to know, pointing to the five 50 pound bags of rice he can see on one side and the stacks of tomato sauce on the other. I tell him it’s all my personal things. “This is too much food”,  he snorts, for two. I repeat my coming down the coast and heading east story, but this time I add: we’re having a family reunion in Texas and we have a huge family".

He snorts even more loudly and then tells me he’ll let me in but I have to pay taxes. Taxes? I repeat. Why?” At the same time Gabriela asks “how much?”

“One hundred” he says. I ask if that’s pesos or u.s. dolares as Gaby begins to reach inside her purse. U.s. dollars he says.

I open my eyes as wide as I can and say that’s so much money. Pesos, by the way, are only worth 20 to the dollar. When I traveled in Mexico in 2010, it was 12 pesos to the u.s. dollar.

“That’s too much for me,” I plead, thinking of everything I will need and how much money I'll have to spend. tell him as I calculate the math in my head. “Will you do $50?”

Alright he grumbles as he stalks off. I hope my triumphant relief and grinning pleasure is not showing too much on my face. The first guy scribbles something on a piece of paper that he rips off the pad and hands to me, directing us across several lanes of moving vehicles to the building across the way where people are entering the border on foot.

We take the paper and rush off to pay before any more charges are leveled. Then we’re back, stamped and with a lighter purse but off into Mexico!

Aguilas del Desierto

Imagine getting a phone call from your child who is hundreds if not thousands of miles away from you. Maybe you get the call in the middle of the night, or moments before you’re heading out the door late for work again.  Maybe you are a little annoyed until instantly you remember she has ventured out days maybe weeks ago to traverse a wild and desolate wilderness terrain, a venture that already made you nervous and worried. Maybe you can barely hear her little girl voice but you certainly hear her needing you, needing your help, needing you to make everything right for her.

Listen to her labored breathing, the panic in her words, the pain she cannot hide for you are her mother.  What do you do? You want to know where she is as you make a plan in your head how to help her, who to call, where to find the one who will rescue your daughter.

She doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t remember how she got there. She knows she has run: from the men who have hurt her, from the deafening helicopters who have hunted her down, from the border patrol who has spied and tracked her, from the men who are trying to make her body a commodity other men are willing to buy.

“Where are you daughter? Where are you?”

And in the last echo as her cell phone dies, she calls you “Mama” and trusts you will find her.

What do you do? You have no car, no passport, no bus or train money, no contacts near the wilderness your child has disappeared into. But you know she is out there, trying her best, attempting to grasp all you have taught her in her quest to reach safety and a life void of fear and violence.

You know what you need: an eagle to soar up from your home and glide along the path your daughter made; an eagle to search from high above the nooks and crannies, the boulders and caves, the stretches of hot sand and the muddy slippery low lands.

If you are very, very, very lucky you will find the angels of Aguilas del Desierto. If you’re even luckier, they will be able to search the last known place your daughter was at. But if you are certainly truly 'blessed', they will find your daughter, her bones and tattered blouse, for she is surely dead, perished desperately seeking that hallowed promised land that never existed – for her at least.

A fucked up beginning

There are several groups operating at both sides of the border providing services and support for refugees, amazing awesome local Latina and indigenous-led groups who have been working here on the border, some for years, others for decades. 

Sanctuary Caravan is a new group project of the New Sanctuary Coalition that was launched this past Wednesday in response to the latest caravan crises. I will be beginning with them, as they are most likely the least busy, and even though they are a faith-based group, they claim to be open and welcoming to all.

I focus this morning on cleaning up then making my coffee and breakfast before heading out of the truck and into the fellowship hall where several rows of chairs are formed in a semi-circle facing a large tv screen and white blackboard.

I get inside just by 8:00am and take a seat in the front row close to the screen as I’ve left my glasses in the truck. Several participants lean in to tell me as soon as they saw my truck they knew they were in the right place!
After hanging out for a half hour, anticipating the beginning of the workshop, the organizers announce that we’re not going to start until 9am – that this time is for schmoozing (my word) and getting acquainted with each other.

Grrrrrrr – I could have slept a little longer.

When the program finally begins, it is really interesting and informative, combining group participation interspersed among lecturing and slides - an orientation I recommend everyone coming to work across the border avail themselves of, whether it is the group you will be working once you enter Mexico or not.

Before the clock strikes 10a.m. though, Phillip approaches me, puppy dog please-forgive-me eyes as he requests to talk with me for a minute.

I’m thinking he must need me to do something – and he does. He needs me to move my truck out of the fuckin parking lot.

I’m kinda incredulous as I explain I verified permission to park there at least twice, sent pictures of my truck  and was told there was no problem with me parking overnight let alone in the middle of the day.

Phillip insists he is terribly sorry about this but someone has complained to the church and the church has a very diverse congregation so the minister who runs sanctuary and has been working so very hard, doesn’t want to offend anyone or cause waves within the church.

I’m almost speechless as he pulls out his cell phone where he has a map of the neighborhood telling me he’ll give me a ride back from whatever dark corner I decide I want to park my truck in.

I ask to speak with whomever has the issue and am told I can do that later but now the truck has to be moved.

I point out that this is discrimination: first of all, I can’t imagine what on my truck is bothering anyone. I’ve painted over the “Smash Fuckin Patriarchy” and the “Death to Racism” plus the “End the White & Male War against Black, Brown, Native, Muslim Asian People; Immigrants, Womxxn, Mother Earth” – some of the missives people have been ‘offended’ by.

When I ask Phillip to tell me who and exactly what someone finds offensive. He shrugs with his wide-eyed jesus smile placating smile claiming he doesn’t know and what a good thing to try to find out.

I’m pissed but we are here for a very specific purpose. It is the beginning of the training and I don’t want to miss it but I do want to deal with this.

I tell Phillip again this is discrimination: here the leadership of the sanctuary has an opportunity to practice and role model how to deal with discrimination. “Do No Harm” is one of their guiding principles and here they are allowing someone to do harm.

I move my truck off church property into a neighborhood adjacent to the building – but it’s still a long walk, especially for someone who has broken a toe, to return to the orientation.