Local author and former 5th District Congressional candidate Mike Palecek is traveling much of the country by car this season on a book tour for his latest novel, "Cost of Freedom." Along the way, he is penning a daily reflection for Pilot-Tribune readers.
DAY 9: DOUGLAS, ARIZONA - "Manuel Escandon Morales!"
Tuesday I took part in a ceremony in downtown Douglas. Local activists and visiting students from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, near my home town of Sheldon, were also there on alternative spring break.
We each hold our cross in the air and the rest say "Presente!"
On the white cross I hold it says that Manuel was born Feb. 15, 1967.
He died June 26, 2002 in the desert of Cochise County, outside of Douglas.
Because he had to hide. We would not let him walk in on the sidewalk. He was a man with heart, who wanted a good life for his children, and we killed him.
We stand on the Pan American Highway, which runs from Douglas into Agua Prieta, Mexico.
When we are done the road is lined with white crosses.
The crosses run from the border patrol port of entry down the road to the intersection at the fast food restaurant.
I'm staying with Paul and Judy Plank. The rest of the year they live about a half hour from me in Iowa, in Remsen.
During the past ten winters they have been coming to Arizona. They live in the Arizona Friends Community outside of Douglas.
Each week the Planks attend the Tuesday vigils, organized by the local group Healing Our Borders. Judy is also involved in a many other local projects to help the migrants, providing work, blankets, encouragement.
We also spent $25 million for a new Border Patrol station at Douglas. There is lots of money, lots of jobs in keeping other people poor. There is all kinds of high-tech cameras and sensing devices set up all around in the desert.
We are on a tour of the area and out to look at the twelve-foot-tall fence. A border patrol agent sits in a jeep.
As we leave another agent comes up for the 3 p.m. shift change - to watch the fence, in case some poor people decide to risk their lives to make a better life for their children, we will be there to make sure they go to jail.
Paul and Judy will head back to Iowa in about three weeks, to see family and to escape rattlesnake season in the desert. Judy once had to chase one away from her porch with a broom.
I ask about the cactus, the plants, the trees, everything. "Mesquite, Yucca."
Paul adds a note about tarantulas and scorpions. "There's nothing warm and cuddly here," says Paul. "Everything is either hard, prickly, or poking."
On Highway 80 into Douglas I passed the "Geronimo Surrenders" monument. There's nothing real of his people here anymore. We killed him.
... "but Tonto he was smarter, and one day said, Kimosabe - kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I'm going out to sea."
- Lyle Lovett, If I Had A Boat
Judy notes that once a year they go over to Agua Prieta to "Revolution Days" where all the children dress up with mustaches and big hats to look like Pancho Villa. He was later killed too, by an assassin to gain a United States reward.
They have been to one of the places where our military interrogators are trained, such as the ones at Abu Ghraib. In the morning we watch the Winter Soldiers hearings on Democracy Now. Paul and Judy have a grandson serving in Iraq.
Ever wonder if you're on the wrong side of the fence?