Posts Tagged ‘River’

Time Ripens

March 25, 2008

    It is 4:40 on Monday afternoon. We are already ten minutes late as our caravan heads down Monsees Road to Calle Milpa Verde Street in Southmost. Southmost is a community unto itself in Brownsville – students from this area will answer “Southmost” instead of “Brownsville” if they are asked where they live. The 6 of us are driving these pot-holed streets and close communities because Southmost, like so many other communities along the Rio Grande Valley, is slated to have a border wall before the end of the year.

    We drive by the home of Rusty Monsees, one of but a few landowners on the river who is for the wall. In a February 2 article in the Brownsville Herald, Mr. Monsees said he wanted a wall behind his land to stem the drug-running he has witnessed, although he does not seem to mind the occasional immigrant family crossing, people he refers to endearingly as la gente. Mr. Monsees was such a proponent of the wall that he called the United States’ government to ask them to build the wall in his backyard, with one caveat – he insisted there be a gate in the Secure Fence to afford him access to the river. (Sieff, Kevin. “Necessary Sacrifices”)

    The road wends its way past the Monsees, up and over the levee which could stand to be a few feet higher at this point. We make our way down Calle Milpa Verde, talking with local landowners, kids, students, dads, teen mothers, grandmothers, aunts, renters, gardeners. Mr. Garcia alerts us that a government agent just visited his house a half hour ago; perhaps if we had not been late, maybe if time had slowed him up and sped up our efforts, we would have been there when the U.S. government man was there asking Mr. Garcia to waive the rights to his property. As it is, we are fortunate – Mr. Garcia has already been in contact with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

    Not everyone on Milpa Verde and San Eugenio Streets, though, is as knowledgeable about the federal designs for their property. One old woman has never heard of a muro before, and it is all we could do to make her believe that the government wanted to erect an 18-foot wall on the 8-foot levee behind her tiny house. Other families have signed but are now having second thoughts. Some want to fight it, but thought it would be prohibitively expensive until they realized that several law firms have pledged to do this work pro-bono.

    As kids run around, flour tortillas sputter and sizzle in the pan, and barbecue wafts through this tight-knit community, we continue to speak with over 150 people. A group of elementary-age children gets so excited about fighting the border wall that they take off on their mountain bikes, distributing 40 leaflets to their neighbors in a veritable “race towards awareness.” We smile at their passion and their instant sense of indignation at the immorality of a border wall through their lives.

    While some individuals bring up the opinions of Monsees, all agree that a border wall would not solve the problems. Far from merely handing out neon-green flyers, this time is meaningful in that it gives all of us updates and perspectives from the “ground.” Even though I live in Brownsville, it is still about 2 miles from the prospective border wall; it is amazing to hear their unique perspectives, their ideas about what solutions would really work, their brainstorms about better ways to spend $49 billion. By the end of the evening, every single one of us wonders if the government even asked the advice of any of these people. We even register three new voters, so at least the government will have the opinions of three more landowners in the upcoming November election.

    Time flies when you are meeting new people and talking about an issue dear to your heart. As encouraging as these few hours were, it is daunting to realize that this must happen in every community all along the 120 miles of the Rio Grande Valley. It will take at least two more trips to Southmost to flyer every single house on the levee, and the government is certainly not waiting patiently as we organize. Despite the semi-favorable court decisions the last few weeks, the U.S. government still is adamant about pursuing the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The opposition to the wall is growing in purpose and in numbers, but we must press on. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Why We Can’t Wait,

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. (86)

The border wall is not an inevitable reality, but neither is a successful overturning of this federal legislation. To that end, people on all borders and immigrants of all ethnicity and background must join this effort to oppose a border wall and demand the immigration reform every U.S. resident so desperately needs. Time is only on our side if we are doing something meaningful for a cause in which we believe. The time is right, and ripens everyday.

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A River Runs Through It

December 9, 2007

There is more than enough criticism in the world. Films and books, in my estimation, should be reviewed as to what they awaken in the viewer rather than attempting to base it off some shifting aesthetic truth. Like wine aficionados imploring you to envision dark cherries and raisins when you taste a chianti, perhaps we could all get more out of our media experiences if we discussed what it awakened in us. For that is the ultimate point of the arts, to awaken memories and fan passions and serve as a catalyst or an encouragement for some change.

 

Last week I saw A River Runs Through It for the first time. Its sweeping epic, the gorgeous shots of Montana and its nostalgic views of fly-fishing all made me feel as if I were partaking in a classic. They reminded me of my own life, reminded me of the dreams I had as a child, as well as excited in me the desire to take up fly-fishing.

 

What spoke to me even more than the stunning landscapes, though, was the idea that someone can make it something beautiful simply by loving it. Paul Maclean, the rebellious son who is embroiled in gambling and drinking problems, somehow elevates all those around him through the simple act of his beautiful casting. As a child he wanted to be a professional fly-fisherman, and even as he grew older and was forced to take other jobs, that driving passion still propelled him and gave his life meaning. To go fishing with Paul was to almost guiltily snatch a glimpse between a man and his true love.

It strikes me that this is the fundamental act of teaching. Teaching is about many things – imparting responsibility, engendering independence, drilling the basics, and preparing students’ goals – but it is most especially the act of communicating a passion despite its utility. Surely writing and reading are noble classroom subjects, but for me they are more than that, the essence of what holds us together and the foundation of understanding. Literacy is the path to independence, to expression, to nonviolence, to a heightened sense of self.

On a daily basis, my job is to communicate that emotion I get when I read a paperback with the rain drizzling just outside my window. I try to make my classes sense the excitement of new worlds offered in readings, the pleasure of saying something both necessary and beautifully. At times, this makes teaching the most frustrating job in the world. Rarely do we put our passions on display for others, and one always risks a profound un-appreciation which is both depressing and disheartening. To come to class ready to discuss Holden’s motivation for cleaning off the bathroom walls, only to discover not a single student has read that chapter, is to contemplate whether or not this is the profession to which you were called.

But, in those instances when you see the flicker of the flame of interest, it is all worth it. Nothing in life compares to the sight of a pupil’s pupil changing from a black hole of disinterest to an open portal of independent discovery. A teacher never teaches an entire class; to hope for 100% passionate students is to set oneself up for failure. But, we do teach for those children who are waiting to get turned on to something meaningful, who have as of yet not been introduced to beauty by someone who loves it to distraction. It is my hope as a lifelong educator that I might be able to share my loves in such a way that my students cannot help but be curious about the power of writing and the self-fulfillment of reading. If only I can love it deeply enough, openly enough, and communicate it truly enough. This is an educator’s dream; this is the river which runs through us.

Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge