I was assigned to the woods. The director pulled me aside and explained the critical nature of my job. Once inside the perimeter of the woods, I was to establish a zone of fifteen to thirty feet from the edge of the tree line. That was where the operation would begin; this was all about security...the security of our sacred land. Once the zone was established, other members of our elite protection squad would deliver and deploy the raw material to cover the trail that the illegals had been using to gain entry. We worked for a good part of the morning, and once we had the trail pretty well covered, the director came back to me and asked me how I would get in now that we had covered up the trail. If I was the one trying to gain entry illegally, he asked, how would I do it? I looked left and right, as far as I could see, and I told him truthfully that any determined person was going to be able to get in no matter what we did. We would run out of raw material for covering the trails before the illegals ran out of ways to get in. He nodded and allowed that that was true...but then he raised his head, looked me right in the eye, and told me that we should at least do our best to make it a little harder for them to get in. That lifted my spirits. I felt a sudden surge of pride for what we were protecting. I rallied my team and we worked even harder, spreading out to the left and right, laying down all the raw material we could find, so that no one would get in through this area. Not on our watch.
I swear to Darwin that’s a true story, yo. I embellished it a little bit, ‘cause that’s what I do; but I swear to you that’s what I spent about two hours doing Saturday morning at Eagle Creek Park. It was part of some kind of community service thing that Amy and some of her students were doing for school. She managed to rope me into asking off for the whole day for it (knowing subconsciously, I’m sure, that she would ensure that by doing so I would miss Record Store Day for the second year in a row), and so I was up at the unholy hour of seven o’clock this morning, debating about whether or not I should take a shower or crawl back under the covers for ten more minutes. I literally cannot recall the last time I was doing anything other than sleeping soundly at seven o’clock in the morning.
Because it was a thing for her school, it wasn’t something we could just go do; we had to go down to the school, collect the kids, get the little mini-buses ready, then drive up to Eagle Creek, unload the buses, count all the kids (again), and get our instructions from the park volunteers. Once we got to work, though, our task was, in fact, to block off an illegal trail that people had been using to get into the park for free. The raw material came from leaves that were raked up along the fence around the beach. Some people raked, some people bagged, and some people trucked the bagged leaves in wheelbarrows into the woods, where I gave them instructions on where to dump the bags, so that the trail could be covered up as effectively as possible. By the time they had all the leaves raked up from around the fence, we had managed to create a barrier that was 3-4 feet high and about 30 feet long.
But anyone determined enough to avoid paying the $5 that it costs to get into Eagle Creek could still easily find their way into the park for free if they had been using an unauthorized trail that suddenly brought them up to our barrier of leaves and sticks. It wouldn’t even take much in the way of creative thinking to get around the barrier. All you have to do is follow the barrier laterally until it comes to an end, and then there you are. I wasn’t really sure what the point was, since what we were doing would not keep anyone from getting into the park illegally, if that was what they really wanted to do. At some point while we were working, one of the students asked me what we were supposed to be doing with all of the leaves and sticks. I told her what the park’s maintenance director had told me when we started working—that we were trying to cover up a trail that people were using to get into the park illegally.
But then the word “illegally” stuck in my throat, even though the vast majority of the students that my wife teaches are refugees from Burma, not illegal immigrants from somewhere south of the border between the United States and Mexico. I imagine that they get looks from people, especially because most of them live on the south side, a part of Indianapolis that will never ever be mistaken for cosmopolitan. (“Allow me to introduce a pair of fellow sophisticates—Turkey Creek Jack Johnson and Texas Jack Vermillion.”) They are not in the United States illegally, and they might not understand the concept of being in the country illegally in the same way that Latinos understand it; but I would think that they have some notion of what it feels like to be looked at differently, and perhaps to be treated differently, because of their skin color and their unusual accents.
Once I had thought about that, I have to say that I was a little bit uncomfortable trying to explain to these kids that what we were doing was basically trying to keep a certain group of people out of the park—even if there is a fairly huge difference between trying to exclude people who are too cheap to pay five bucks to get into the park and trying to keep people from one country from entering a different country without the proper documentation. I wonder if a conservative would understand that difference, though. Conservatives see things in mostly black and white, and when you boil it down, the principle of the two things is very similar. I bet a conservative might even argue, using whatever passes for logic in their muddled heads, that keeping freeloaders out of the park is the micro version of the macro issue of keeping undocumented people out of the United States.
Except that you don’t need a passport to get into Eagle Creek—or to get into any other city park! There is no barrier to entry other than the $5 gate fee. You need a passport, or a work visa, or some other kind of documentation to get into the United States, and those things take time and money to procure—time and money that someone who’s starving to death just might not be able to afford when the only thing on his mind is where he’s going to get his next meal and if he’s ever going to see his family again. I wonder how easy it would be to explain that concept to someone who thinks that Earth is only a few thousand years old. It might not be much different than trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t understand English very well.
I’m willing to concede that, for people whose homes are in close proximity to the border, a seemingly never-ending flood of immigrants might not be a welcome scenario. I’m about as liberal as it gets, but I wouldn’t want people tromping through my backyard in the middle of the night—I don’t give a damn what their reason is. The problem is, those aren’t the only people making a stink about this. (There are also better ways to deal with it than how it's being dealt with now, with mercenary "Border Patrol" poseurs walking the beat with loaded guns. But whatever. The fake Christians in this country love them some loaded guns—probably white sheets and hoods, too; and the way that you know they're fake Christians is by the selective application of their so-called Christian charity, which is usually reserved for people whose skin color matches their own.) When you have bumper stickers that say “Hoosiers Support Arizona,” things have gotten out of hand—because that’s just fucking racist. What we need to do is round up these Arizona-supporting donkeys and beat the shit out of them with copies of Robert Frost books.
But then we’d just have to explain that part to them, too...after we explain what a poem is.
“To put up a fence to keep me out, or to keep Mother Nature in.
If God was here he’d tell it to your face—Man, you’re some kind of sinner.”
—Five Man Electrical Band, “Signs”