Monday, July 14, 2014


Central American refugees

This is a diatribe after keeping up with the news.  It is about what is perceived as unwanted immigration of children but is far more than that.

One can interpret the inundation of the Mexican border with Central American refugees as a continuation of the whole population demographic change over the past centuries as indigenous people were forced out of their economies of ecology (being where they were) and into a placeless common culture in which they are no longer people but only objects, paying a high price in suffering.  I’m talking about Native Americans on the prairie little more than a century ago.  They are just recovering now, learning how to organize for prosperity and hoping to create the predictable stability that supports commerce.  It’s not easy and many loved individuals get lost along the way, maybe to booze and autos, maybe to diabetes or cancer.  Some to drugs.


There are two interlocking cultures on these conjoined American continents: one is formed by these refugees, like other refugees around the planet whose horizons have shrunk to day-by-day survival.  Ties to group are limited to those immediately present.  Hope is replaced by expedience.  Morality and piety are destroyed.  This is a pandemic as surely as the more obvious disease/hunger/exposure/violence complex that defines people with no assets.  Their bodies are their only wealth and even they are steadily eroded.  The only comfort becomes fatalism and superstition.  They learn to evade all authorities, which in response causes law-enforcers to be predatory, seizing and holding those they suspect. The machinery of justice is snarled and jammed.  Expense mounts.

Third from the right is the president of Mexico

The other culture is that of the 1% who live in blissful denial -- a manufactured world of immediate “rewards”.  A person can only consume so much food, clothing, furnishings, and so on.  The rest of the wealth has to be only symbolized as a corporation, a false person, governed by tax laws and shareholder negotiations.  The refugee culture is governed by raw force and hunger.  The 1% now occupy walled and sequestered zones.  In the frontier past it was the indigenous peoples who were pushed into the spare land and confined there.  Now it is the privileged who take cover in guarded places while the disemplaced people wander back and forth through megacities and vegetable fields.

Conjoined continents

Surrounding both of these cultural networks is the real world of all the other living creatures and resource assets of the planet, including climate and water, but also plants, insects and small mammals.  So far we have been aware of the micro-interactions of disease like TB, HIV, and HepC which vector from human to human, while in the background has been the potential of something cross-species like bird flu or the present Ebola outbreak which seems to originate in bats.  Malaria, of course, is also a vector with wings, much tinier ones on the mosquitoes moving north due to climate change.  Wings cross walls.  All these codes are DNA.  They all fit together.  Every bit of life on the planet has universal code that can be added or subtracted to other creatures.


The DNA of these Central American tribal children from high mountains in undeveloped areas is pristine, uncompromised by the chemicals of modern industrial ag chemicals and cities -- until they work in our fields.  Their culture is conservative, religious, and long-standing.  If they are able to find each other in the north and reconnect, perhaps through the Catholic church or maybe websites, they could be contributors to the whole of us.  They certainly look healthier and even cleaner than the Irish starvelings and hunched-over central European peasants after their steerage passage across the sea barely a century ago.


Climate refugees have already begun to migrate within the United States.  My brother left the increasingly dangerous tornado alley of Oklahoma.  They say the Black population has returned South. A judge in Dallas has suggested the sheltering of 2,000 unaccompanied Central American children because, he says, as the only inland major city in Texas, they have already sheltered the refugees from New Orleans and other major storms.  

The other big cities in Texas big enough to absorb thousands of fleeing people are on the coast, potential -- perhaps inevitable -- victims themselves.  In time even the people who have evaded interception at the border will either make contact with others already here who can help them, or will die at unknown percentages.  At least no one will throw their bodies into huge industrial kettles to be doused with diesel and burned so no one can dig them out of burial pits.  We’ll just find small bones mingled with t-shirts that once had sparkles on the front, spelling out LOVE.

Maras, gangs that originated in the US

Two economic forces are interacting: one is the “civilized” world’s insatiable appetite for drugs that supply the illusion of grandiosity, and the other is the private armies of criminal soldiers of fortune who supply and enforce the distribution of the drugs, armed with US guns.  The United States are key to both forces, encouraging through media and politics the idea that power and domination are the meaning of life.  This is an idea shared and promoted by our right wing.  They prey upon the sense of danger in the vulnerable, both the quiet families of tribal villages in Central America AND ordinary Americans who are so afraid of children that they go armed in the streets as defense against teenagers in hoodies.  Pedophile is a term of contempt; pedophobe is an suburban disease. 

Underlying everything else is economics, both the channeling of it and the whipping of it into a frenzy of moremoremoremore.  More people out of work.  More small businesses closed down.  More people in prison.  Only now are we seeing the proof of our national culpability in manipulating other countries, sowing more seeds of terrorism and underculture, the dragon teeth of war.   People blame religion, but that’s just a disguise dragged in afterwards.  The corporate hierarchies of organized religion are as easily bought out as any other bureaucracy.

Heart Butte, Montana

So I’m storming around town, fulminating, over-reacting when the hardware store doesn’t have the part I need to make my toilet tank quit leaking, stopping to make contact with Corky at the motel so he’ll come by to help jack up my waste-stack this afternoon.  Home-owning is the matrix of wealth in this country, but at the cost of constant expense and maintenance.  But, hello!  Here’s a Blackfeet fellow peacefully smoking on the stoop of his room.  It’s Tim Weaselhead, a student from 1989-91 in Heart Butte.  We remember each other.

He looks good.  He was on a roofing crew in North Carolina for a few years, then doing demolition in Washington, D.C., and now working on an oil drilling crew.  He has two small children with Misty, a classmate who is living in New Mexico.  If you go to the blog called and go down past the manuscript of the book I wrote about the place, you’ll find the yearbook from 1991.  Tim is in the eighth grade page, wearing a t-shirt that says NIKE.  He was a little guy then, but full of energy and ideas.  He is only a few generations from tribal children sent running for their lives through sub-zero snow, under attack from Baker's cavalry, little more than post-Civil War rabble.

So Tim Weaselhead is the hope.  He's the future.  He’s been taking classes at BCC.  He’s not quite an old-time Indian, but he’s clearly and confidently Blackfeet.  I’ve calmed down.  I’ll order online the part I need.  It’s too smoky to see the mountains today.  That means the fire crews will be out making money.  

A man from the midwest has contacted me to ask whether he should bring his family to a teaching job in Heart Butte.  What should I tell him?  The risks are major.  The rewards are quiet.  The decision is individual.

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