A glance at the top ten most-viewed El Paso (TX) Times headlines on a September Saturday morning reveals the split-personality of border life in a warzone:
The border "disconnect" has always been a bit disconcerting to me, a newbie on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Literally: within an hour from my front door-- without even using a car or taking a bus-- I can plunge into a large foreign city. If I use a car and city bus, within an hour I can walk down the dust-covered street of an undeveloped barrio neighborhood. I sneak sidelong peeks to avoid looking like a gawker at the homes comprised of loading pallets covered with cardboard.
It's the split personality of living in the border community. A great divide runs through us. This is the line marking the greatest disparity in wealth that's found anywhere in the world.
But in the last few years, as violence has spiraled, the split has taken on an additional darker dimension. How does one live life when surrounded by the horror of daily violence, savagery and death?
The juxtaposition of headlines reveals this new reality. Friday night high school football bumps up next to traumatized children. Kidnappings, slayings and a new wave of violence intermingles with "what to do" this weekend. Life continues amidst terror.
We in El Paso are the horrified bystanders. Hiding behind our border wall, we reassure the world of our "safest city" status. Yet we ache for our family and friends who live in Juarez with car bombs, carjackings, and extortion--all with no recourse. We are afraid to go there now. We don't know what to do.
And life in Juarez continues, as life must continue in any war zone. I sometimes think of the ordinary people of Juarez as "heroes" and then I wonder if I'm too easily dismissing their reality with that thought. You know: call them "heroes" and then move on to other things.
My migratory lifestyle, each year split between the placid Midwest and the bloody Border, only accentuates the disconnect.
There's no easy answer. There is nothing to do but to continue.