Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hateful Vandalism

I contemplated whether or not I ought to post this photograph I took in El Paso on the U.S.-Mexico border a few days ago. This sign is posted on the El Paso side and warns folks not to enter the river due to dangerous currents (these signs are posted all along the border fence in El Paso). The "no aliens" sticker someone placed on this otherwise common sign is an expression, in my opinion, of outright hate. Interestingly, it is directed at a U.S. audience since it faces the U.S., not anyone on the Ciudad Juárez side presumably attempting to cross into the U.S. In my opinion, it makes fun of those who do cross over and risk their lives doing so. It is hateful on so many levels, from making fun of people in legitimate danger (due to the elements, yes, but I also think of coyotes and the militarized border), it uses the rhetoric of calling people "aliens," and it attempts to assert a casual superiority in the attempted humor that is not at all humorous. Maybe it was some young adult with nothing better to do, maybe it was the minutemen, maybe this person was Mexican American, but one thing is for sure... this is hateful vandalism that does not reflect what many people who live on the border would find humorous, in my opinion.

Now, we could turn it around and say maybe this person is very cleverly using satire, making fun of U.S. citizens entering Juárez, calling them aliens, even though everyone knows that U.S. citizens easily cross into Mexican border towns legally without showing i.d. or without explanation or permission... it's only a few coins to cross. The long crossing lines are on the Mexican side entering the U.S., not the other way around. So is this vandalism poking fun at U.S. citizens, turning the tables on the rhetoric?

I don't think so. I trust my gut reaction. The original sign is a warning for safety and I read the vandalized sign above as a warning as well, albeit a cowardly one, and not for the safety of anyone. I decided to post the picture of the vandalized sign because it is an unpleasant reality that I do not want to ignore.

This is what these signs usually look like along the border fencing and barbed wire that have been here for years.

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