Border Wall / Campo

The wall and nationalism

Message on a tag on the border fence at Campo, California

Since 2005 the border wall at Campo, California has provided the perfect location for frightened Americans to unify and express their fears.  Drive south of Campo on Forrest Gate Road down to the border wall and you will see the messages.

Minuteman Fence south of Campo

Just at the edge of federal and state property, about 100 feet from the 1995 border wall,  a barbed wire fence stands, a holdover from the San Diego Minutemen days of a few years ago.

Look more closely, and you will see dozens of metal tags, engraved with  zenophobic messages, ostensibly addressed to migrants crossing into San Diego.  Yet, the fact that the messages are all in English and the tags are facing north suggests a more complex form of address.

The messages enable Americans in non-border states–like Fred and Ann Kilgore of Alabama–to join in a national performance of vigilance, shared expression of fear and frustration against Mexican workers, linking zenophobia to a comforting sense of national purpose.

The tags and messages are part of a broader project to build the border fence through small, individual efforts.  The Border Fence Project, sponsored by Declaration Alliance and, offer site visitors the opportunity to express their sense of patriotism and national belonging by placing a zenophobic message on the border wall.  For $200.00, visitors can “immortalize your feelings about illegal immigration and the failure of our federal government to protect us. ”

It’s clear today that in times of fear and crisis, zenophobia seems to be the go-to expression of national belonging in the United States.

We are falling into poverty, as a new report from the most recent Census data indicates.  The Census finds that nearly 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or earn at a level that classifies them as local income.

At the same time, the gap between the 1% and the 99% continues to widen.  At no time in history have the rich been richer.

Yet rather than rise up against the forces of income inequality and fight for worker safety and rights for all people, Americans too often allow the competitive drives of the market to shape their responses.  Indeed, Americans are losing their jobs.  My own job is being cut to half-time.

But we know the reasons: budgets for schools, colleges and universities are being slashed, leaving millions without jobs.  Workers rights and safety are under seige.  And corporations have moved the jobs elsewhere.

And so, it’s not like some other worker is stealing my job.

No, it’s that the company I work for–the California State University system–that has stolen my job, downsized education, and plans to cut a good share of California students out of higher education all together.

America, indeed the world, is going through a massive economic crisis.  And we have lost many of our freedoms.  But it is economic analysis that will provide answers, not zenophobia and fear.

Click here for more of my photos of the tags at Campo’s border wall




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