The border is not just a place, it’s an idea– so begins my piece in the The Texas Observer’s 60th Anniversary Issue.
The thought flashed across my mind as I traveled from ciudad Juárez into el Paso, and then through Del Rio and down into the Rio Grande Valley.
The editors asked me to try and gauge the future of the border. Most journalists tend to shy away from predictions, as it is anathema to our work. Certain questions though stand before us and the important challenges on the border reflect,in larger part, our collective sense of self, purpose and confidence–in Texas and the U.S.
As we peer into the future of the borderlands, we will be challenged to trade a political culture based on fear for one of genuine leadership. In no small part, the future of the borderlands, and by extension texas, will be shaped by whether we approach the future clinging to mythical notions of the past and a status quo that marginalizes a Latino population that will soon be the texas majority. Will defaulting to a distorted sense of tradition determine how billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue is spent, guide the stewardship of our land and waters, and determine the quality of public educa- tion? can we transcend a border rhetoric that provokes morbid fascination, fear and at times pity, distracting us from the vexing problems in our communities: unem- ployment, education, income inequality (in which texas ranks fifth in the nation), a gender wage gap, lack of health care and a real shot at a better future? such shifts in thinking require confronting the symbolic nature of the border—the idea—by which government officials reinforce the lines of national sovereignty.