There’s an old Chinese curse that states “may you live in interesting times,” and brother, after this week, you can’t get stuff that’s any more interesting than what’s been taking place with The Donald, er, sorry, President Trump, and this executive order business. He’s banned people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen (mostly Muslim -oriented countries... wait a minute, he forgot a few... hey, you better thrown in Indonesia, Nigeria, Kosovo, and Saudia Arabia. Oh, sorry about that last one – I forget, we’re doing business with those folks), from entering the United States. Acting like a couple of middle schoolers fighting over who gets the playground at recess, Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto got into a big spat over the wall thing, so much so that Nieto canceled his playdate in Washington. Then, apparently they made up via a phone call that Trump called “very, very friendly.” Of course, the executive order getting the Affordable Care Act repealed – saw that one coming, so, what’s on deck to replace that, guys? Wow, there’s been more action this week in Washington than in a Vin Diesel “XXX” movie, I tell you. Pugilist and cartoon action hero Mike Tyson once said that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Well, I guess we got punched in the mouth, America.
Oh, and I guess we’re part of the enemy now – the media, that is. Must we (meaning all cohorts here in Storm Lake who report on the news) be a part of that affiliation? Heck, we’re small potatoes on a plate full of wild rice, steamed broccoli, and cooked catfish compared to Fox News, and CNN. I guess if we’re getting paid to write about stuff, then shucks, count me with the enemy. So, on that note, I’m going to go back to my original premise of writing about this border wall thing.
First, let’s just take out all the logistics, political and social implications, and get right to the weird part. Am I the only one who thinks it’s crazy to build something that’s estimated to cost $15 billion, then stick your neighbor with the check? Hold up, I need to put this initial thought out there – I know what you’re thinking, but hasn’t this entered anybody’s mind first? It’s like saying, hey, I’m building a patio, but you’re going to pay for it. I get border security, I get the weight of the fears of way too people coming into the states to use our resources, I get all that – it’s not lost on me, okay? And why wasn’t this done years ago if this is of such urgency? 2006, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, an attempt to put up fencing on the U.S./Mexico border in order to solve the problem we’re addressing today. Throughout history, various presidents have put in more border patrol, checkpoints, and detention centers down there. Suddenly, a big concrete wall makes sense, so let’s try that. Before everyone gets giddy with anticipation over this, let’s get some logistics going.
The United States/Mexican border is 1,933 total miles long. Different types of border fencing spans 670 miles, with congressional folk wanting to add another 700 miles. Parts of Texas have the tallest section of wall, this being 21 feet high, and six feet in the ground, steel bars embedded in concrete. Texas has border fencing as well. Anybody who has spent some time along the southern border in Texas knows the terrain changes drastically. Google an aerial shot of west Texas, and you’ll get my drift – building a wall there would be complicated. As you head east to the coast, you can add the Rio Grande River as a natural border. I’ve got a personal history with those towns, but more on that later. Anyway, a wall to keep out the riff-raff, whoever they are I guess, is a great selling point to win people over – it’s symbolic, finite, and just barks hey, keep out, we don’t want you here. I guess it worked for Berlin all those years, but they took that sucker down, didn’t they? I guess the president is looking at the Chinese for a business model on that one. Another story for another column would be the cost of closing factories, and establishing new ones in the states, for manufacturing, is so astronomically absurd it doesn’t compute. Guess what, boys and girls? We get stuck with the bill. I’ll put it in terms I understand, I suppose – that new Mexican made Fender Stratocaster electric guitar I’ve been eyeing for $400 suddenly becomes $900.
My dad and stepmother lived in Mission, Texas, oh, roughly 25 years. My dad retired from John Deere Des Moines Works, and they headed south, figuring the weather would help my dad’s health out. At the time they moved, I was excited -wow, some place I can fly to that’s different. Young and single, I would fly from Des Moines to McAllen, or Harlingen, Texas yearly for a time period, and spend a few days with the folks in their gated community next to a golf course, just west of Mission. There was this exotic mix of cultures, it seemed – “winter Texans” with Hispanics, naturally, but there were Lao, Thai, and Chinese populations as well. As a family, we would head across the border to spend money and time in cities like Reynosa, and Progresso. One time, there was a band playing music in a local beer garden at a bar called Pepe’s On The River, and come to find out some of the members were from Greenfield, Iowa. A little schmoozing, some small talk about guitars and music gear, next thing I know, I’m on stage jamming with them.
At times, I would think about the phrase regarding the ‘ugly American’ – tourists that just come in, thinking they own the place, without sensitivity to their surroundings, I suppose that’s what it implies. Of course, my folks took this as, well, this is the way it was – the abject poverty, kids coming up to beg for dollars, sitting sipping drinks while looking out at the Rio Grande River, to see people swimming across in a vain attempt at freedom. You knew they were going to get caught anyway, but kudos to them for the attempt, because the Rio Grande is pretty nasty, sanitary wise. My folks moved back to Iowa in 2014, and my dad died a year later.
The United States has had a contentious at times, but workable relationship with Mexico. A problem exists with illegal immigration, but solutions have been put forth in various forms for legalization of immigrants streaming up from Mexico, as well as central America. The speed at which the border wall proposal is heading is not unusual – presidents usually try to sign off on executive orders enmasse the first week of office. But is it more an obsession with letting people see that campaign promises come to fruition quickly? I don’t know, but I know I’ll be mulling over a better way to approach this, at least for my own query. Right now, my gut says no to a border wall for many reasons, but what do I know? I’m the press, remember?