There is an absurdity about driving into a vast openness to inspect three- and four-mile sections of river and believing it has anything to do with Security with that big S. Is this fence — really a wall, up to 18 feet high and 150 feet fat with “tactical infrastructure” of roads, floodlights, radar, and who-knows-what — really a matter of the much-bandied-about National Security? Could we be witnessing a phenomenal moment of discussion that is more about our national identity? Could we be experiencing a moment of panicked transference, while so little seems under our national control?
Hundreds of miles from San Antonio, a river-crosser may pose a security interest to an agent tasked with keeping the Mexican national (or simply, insultingly: OTM, Other Than Mexican) south of la linea. But what does this crosser represent, if anything, for me and my safety? For my family? Or even for my country?
As these thoughts are meandering through my head, I am passing the truckstop town and former immaculate natural spring site known as Fort Stockton. I’m more than 1,200 miles from DeKalb, Illinois, where another damned shooting has taken the lives of yet one more handful of innocents and stirred reactions in the world’s watchers, ranging from disgust, outrage, and helpless indifference.
Plenty of disgust angled from afield at our country for its love of semiautomatic pistols — a love that allows us to mourn, “heal,” and move on ad infinitum before before we dare begin weighing the unspeakable damage they have caused. Outrage from within and more talk about the limitations of psychological profiling. It appears last decade’s rash of high school massacres has graduated. This decade, the tormented shooters have long since mastered physics and calculus.
The killer struck the day before I packed my car, stealing in those moments our attention, our national focus. And the demonized border crosser has lost all significance on the broadest of security scales. If anything has shaken the National Security, the National Interest, it was something in Illinois — not Fabens, or Redford, or Paso Lajitas.
Not to say there aren’t days the tremors originate on the River. But they are rare, absurd events, typically. Our country’s desire for their drugs hasn’t changed; The demand for our guns south of the border likewise hasn’t, either.
Will a wall address this dynamic? I know a wall will do many things. One thing I’m fairly confident it won’t do: It won’t bring us closer as people.