Friday, July 28, 2006

They’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

From the LA WEEKY comes a story of a group of teen “Border Patrol Explorer Scouts” in Arizona who learn to raid buildings, pull cars off the road, shoot guns, and to track “illegal immigrants” with night-vision goggles.

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“Bend at the waist, and put your hands behind your back. Knuckles touching, thumbs up! Now DO NOT MOVE!” Helen marks her steps, approaching slowly. The spectators are frozen as she whips out a pair of handcuffs and slaps them on.

Another day, and what sounds like another arrest on the Arizona border. Naco is a city where “The Border” is no abstraction. It is the painfully real corrugated-steel barrier — rusted in spots, barbed in others — that slices the town neatly in two. One half for the United States, one half for Mexico. In Naco, the border is where illegal immigrants and the Border Patrol come to perform their intricate ballet of catch-and-release.

But Helen is no ordinary agent, and her prey is no real fence hopper. Helen wears a close-enough-to-be-real Border Patrol uniform and a severe expression on her otherwise impish face. Her wispy brown eyes are timid and hard to catch. She enunciates her words almost too carefully, aware of their precocious power. She is just 14 years old. While many other girls her age are filling the chatmosphere with gabby text messages, Helen is practicing arresting illegal immigrants. (Or, in this case, her friend Courtney.)

Helen, along with 20 other teens, is an officially certified Border Patrol Explorer Scout. The 90-day training program, started last year by the Boy Scouts, exposes teens, ages 14 through 17, to a career with the Border Patrol. “It gives you a cool feeling, like you’re a real agent or something,” says Helen.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

Border Patrol Captain Terrence Ford started off with the basics of statutory and criminal law. But the fare quickly became more challenging — if not controversial. The teens learn to raid buildings. They learn to pull cars off the road. They learn to shoot guns. They even learn to track “illegal immigrants” — or advisers dressed as illegal immigrants — on moonless nights with night-vision goggles.

This is definitely not your father’s scouting program, but it’s still a huge hit with parents. Enrollment is swelling. On “family day,” proud parents come to swill lemonade and shoot home movies of their teens performing mock felony vehicle stops. The idea of teens acting as de facto Border Patrol apprentices may raise eyebrows in some parts of America. But in Southern Arizona — with 370 miles of shared border with Mexico — it’s not just practical. It’s practically inevitable. Call it the internship of the 21st century.

For teens on the American side of Naco, the border is a means of security — and even a potential career opportunity. But below the line, in Naco, Mexico, the border is the subject of hatred. For Mexican teens developing an identity and a sense of their place in the world, it represents a constant slap in the face — and, in their eyes, the ultimate double standard. It keeps friends and family on opposite sides of the fence from visiting each other, while ensuring that the Mexican half of Naco is forever abloom with border crossers and drug smugglers

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be carefully taught!

It would seem only natural for teens living so close to the border to develop a curiosity about all things Mexican. Yet ironically, for many American border teens it is quite the opposite: They develop an aversion. Many speak little or no Spanish, and have no intention of picking it up. Helen Brady says she would like to learn French, although she admits, “Spanish would be more practical.”

For his part, Cory Roddey has never crossed the border — despite his goal of pursuing a career with the Border Patrol. “Truth is, I have no desire to go to Mexico at all,” he says dismissively. “I just don’t find it very interesting. I like it here, and I can’t find any reason to go over there.

“Most of my friends have the same views as me,” he continues. “And if they don’t, they’re not really my friends.”

There’s much so more to the article, it’s a little long , but well worth the read.


opendna said...

You couldn't have saved that poem for another story, eh? It would have been appropriate for the Junior Minute Men but it's not for the Border Patrol Explorer Scouts. This story is not really about prejudice or hate or anti-immigration feelings and you really have to stretch to make it so.

This story is about kids in a tiny little desert town with nothing going, who're being given an opportunity at a good paying job in their own area. It's about the government giving opportunities to youth in an area where a job at the mall is high status and drug smuggling his how you get rich.

Many other local teens join the Border Patrol Scouts looking for something to do. Courtney Roberts, a 17-year-old graduate of the program, complains that there are “not a whole lot” of activities for teens around Naco. For her part, Courtney is ecstatic about starting a waitress job at the local Chili’s in the near future.

Like many Arizona border teens, Cory realizes that the Border Patrol is one of the best career options available to him. The median annual household income around Naco, Arizona, is $26,143 — that’s 30 percent lower than the Arizona average. A third of Naco’s residents live below the poverty line. Meanwhile, entry-level agents make a starting salary of around $35,000, with ample opportunity to bring home overtime pay.

I know, some people react to the anti-immigration fanatics with the belief that anyone who enforces immigration law willingly must be a racist. Some people believe that all police must be closet fascists. I don't subscribe to that point of view. Civil service is honorable and this country would be better off if more people did some (if only for a few years).

You tried to portray Cory Roddey as biggoted with this quote:
Cory Roddey has never crossed the border — despite his goal of pursuing a career with the Border Patrol. “Truth is, I have no desire to go to Mexico at all,” he says dismissively. “I just don’t find it very interesting. I like it here, and I can’t find any reason to go over there.

But you omitted what Mexico looks like on the other side of his border. Maybe by including something from Dulce Medina, on the other side of the fence:
“Under the bridge used to be a safe place for illegal immigrants to spend the night before they crossed into America... But now it’s different. Now it’s a haven for drug dealers and addicts. You can pretty much say that drug trafficking is king here. Everyone here works in it. It’s like two different cities. There is Naco during the day, and there is Naco at night. I don’t leave my house after I get home at 6 o’clock.”

Dulce's not exactly describing a tourist destination; if I wouldn't want to go there, why should Cory Roddey? I wonder if he's ever been on a plane? He probably thinks California is pretty interesting, but I bet he's never been there.

Cut the kids a little slack, man. They're just trying to grasp an honorable future out of the desert dust.

Duke1676 said...

I neither believe that anyone who enforces immigration law willingly must be a racist nor that the police are closet fascists. Civil service is honorable and professionals in those fields deserve not only our respect but also our gratitude for doing the jobs that make a civil society possible, often under less than optimal conditions and for wages that are disproportionate to the importance of the job. I also fully understand the lack of career opportunities for many of these young people.

That said, it must be remembered that we're talking about children here. Just as I would be concerned if we were to have a "junior correction guards" program at a typical prison where a vast majority of the inmates divided themselves along racial lines for fear that the young people might get the warped world view of race relations , or a "Vice Patrol Scouts" rounding up prostitutes because the kids might get the wrong ideas about sexuality and normal relations between men and women, I fear that teaching children how to hunt for "illegal aliens" on a moonless desert night might lead to their dehumanizing of those who are different from them.

Even for adults who are trained in law enforcement, it is sometimes difficult to remain detached and professional. For teens, at their stage of emotional and psychological development I believe it is next to impossible. Especially in the case of the main subject of the story who has led a very sheltered life, home-schooled and separated from societal diversity. No matter how well meaning the adults supervising this program are, you can't give teens this kind of power over others without having them get a feeling of entitlement and superiority. Herein lays the problem with this program.

As a Border Patrol Agent I'm sure you are aware of the death, suffering and human costs of our failed immigration system and the subsequent crisis situation along the border. But do these kids see that. Or do they see this as glorified paintball game where they get to dress up in uniforms and hunt down "wetbacks"…. My guess is the latter.

XicanoPwr said...

You tell 'em Duke. It is easy for the La Migra, ICE or whatever name they will take. I didn't see them complain when they got "their relief" from the National Guard.

And to cut them slack, please, all you guys are doing it teaching them to be the next MinuteKlan generation just waiting to blow some "spic" in the head for not listening when La Migra yell out stop.

I bet there is no remorse for the femicide for the women at Ciudad Juárez. And please don't placate me, I don't need it. Many of my sistren continue to be raped and killed from the south yet, nothing is being done on our side of the border because the covers up of the crimes continue. This is not a Mexican problem their have been implications from the Maquiladora Association to the Border Patrol.

I am not saying all Migra are bad, but bad behavior are seems to rewarded because the good ones are set up so they can be fired and imprisoned. You know how I am talking about, Ephraim Cruz

Let’s cut the bullshit here, Duke has called it out, and you OpenDNA are just minimization of racism by using some type of abstract rhetoric to support the status quo in an apparently "reasonable" fashion. That is why you threw that “civil service is honorable” meme as if we are the ones to be blamed for these policies. We have not failed the government, the government has failed us, how is it honorable to serve in the civil serve when it obvious that our governments are only serving themselves. And don’t tell me that the Border Patrol is different, wasn’t it BP who complained about Dudya’s appointment of Julie Meyers are your boss? How is it honorable to serve when you do the right thing and system turns their back on you.

The American dream that by working hard and playing by the rules, your life and your children's lives would be better is no longer – there isn’t any hard work available to be done.

I used to believe that we could fix our messes by working together. Ney - not when those who are left in charge are the ones who serving themselves, using up our resources and throw it away, and not worry about the messes they leave behind.

There is no reason to be looking for discrimination, when there is nothing be found - it is blatant, you’re the one who is trying to sweep it under the proverbial rug.

theboz said...

I think that for me, even if these children are not being raised to be racist or fascist, there is a big problem with the glorification of violence.

It would also be disturbing for the kids to be taught about how "fun" it would be to become a cop who gets to shoot drug dealers and handcuff pimps or a soldier who gets to shoot arabs. The fact is that these things should be something that we despise doing, and that we should only do it when we have no other choice.

I grew up with guns and enjoyed shooting them, but never was raised to imagine how "cool" it would be to shoot a fellow human being. In fact, the idea of shooting a person was highly discouraged and the gravity of such a choice was impressed upon me early.

There should be no glory in violence, and we should not be training our children to enjoy it or thrive with it.