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The Borders We're Used to Guarding

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Blue sky looks down on the broad Sonoran desert. It sees miles of electric and razor wire fence, landing sheets from WWII turned up on their side. High-tech sensors mounted on towers and drones survey the landscape. To the east, a virtual armada patrols the Atlantic coast of Florida. Thousands of people have literally risked life and limb already to reach the barrier, and they will do so again to cross under, over and through, determined to get to one of the two countries to the north.

Perhaps close to half are from Honduras, where the two countries barely squeezed through a governmental overthrow, propping up a regime that would rewrite the constitution to allow their gold mining companies, biofuels and tourism industries to use up the water and appropriate poor people’s farmland. In Mexico, Haiti and countless other places, the same results were achieved using subsidized corn and rice from the United States, exported and sold at a price lower than the cost of production. This made farm life a near impossibility. Within the U.S., the myth of a civilized justice system has withstood a steep and pernicious rise in the proportion of the population being locked up in prison. The invisible borders that divide skin color, class and gender are the ones that still affect many hundreds of unfriendly judgments made over the course of a lifetime, concerning who gets punished, how much, for what action against whom.

People must repeat and retell these truths to each other time and again. Everyone has the responsibility to act up against a deranged contradiction: world-traveling goods, unbridled judgment, constrained and isolated people. What would it be like to have friends from across borders? What questions might they pose to us? What excuses could possibly be acceptable for tolerating the policies that make their lives difficult?

A month ago, the Afghan Peace Volunteers tried an experiment called “One World in One Week– We Want to Break All Borders.” Even as a generation of Afghan refugees is being expelled from Iran and Pakistan in the renewed flames of nationalism stoked by U.S. sanctions and drone strikes, the youth in Kabul are reaching out. Reaching out beyond the borders of tribe race and gender in their own community, they started inter-ethnic collective activities including tutoring and a seamstress cooperative. Reaching out to the whole world, they do group skype calls with anyone else who wants to talk about working towards a more inclusive vision of a just and shared future. Sky blue is their symbol, expansive unity that is shared by everyone. Let’s take a hint.

Please have your friends from various countries send an email to 1week4abetterworld@gmail.com to get connected with the Afghan youth.

Buddy Bell is an immigrants’ rights activist and has been to the US-Mexico border several times, most recently in January 2013 to visit with deported migrants in northwest Mexico. He traveled with voices to Afghanistan in June and November 2012.