Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Law of the Border

It is a story much underreported in the American press, which perhaps adds another bit of evidence to the Meridian Law of Prominence in Journalism: the importance of a story is in inverse proportion to its appearance in the mainstream press. The Spanish daily El Pais reported two days ago on an attack by drug cartel assassins on a rehab center in the city of Chihuahua in northern Meixco. About this incident two facts immediately stand out. The first is the brutality of it: 19 patients were killed in the attack, carried out with the help of large-caliber weapons; police recovered over 150 shell casings at the scene. (In 2009, 17 people lost their lives in a similar attack in Ciudad Juarez, which abuts the U.S. border, and a total of 40 were killed in this fashion over the course of the past year.) The second salient point is the location. The rehabilitation center exists as a symbol of healing generally, of institutions which tap deep into the springs of what makes us human--compassion for others. More particularly, a rehabilitation center represents life independent of the control of the drug bosses, the decision to overcome one's past and exist as a rational human being exercising one's power to make one's own choices in life. Finally, the rehabilitation center symbolizes those institutions of normal, civic life that contribute to the improvement of society and stand apart from the desires of those who seek for themselves power and wealth by any means possible.

In attacking these places, then, the drug cartels serve notice that they are willing to employ maximum lawless force in order to destroy institutions that would exist apart from their control. The sheer wanton force they use serves not only to punish but also to intimidate anyone who might think in future of trying to live as a free human being.

I don't mean to suggest that such attacks are a daily occurrence in Mexico, but the fact that they happen with some frequency indicates severe pressure on anything that can be called Mexican civil society. The nation that produced Frida Kahlo, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Octavio Paz, Miguel Jimenez, and Carlos Fuentes is perhaps in danger of losing to violent, lawless erosion those institutions that ensure stability and freedom in a democratic society. As the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa never tires of reminding us, those institutions--an independent judiciary, a military ultimately controlled by civilians, a banking system independent of government control--are absolutely essential for any nation whose citizens are to be free and live lives independent of government control. All dictatorships and failed states around the globe, from the Zimbabwean bush to the near-famine conditions in Somalia, to the sophisticated streets of Moscow, lack the independent institutions that can check the power of the few that would pillage their countries for their own ends.

As many others have pointed out many times, the power of these lawless elements south of the border is an important reason for sealing that international boundary, as we have called for in our second post. That same post shows that we are not anti-immigrant: indeed, we believe that those now here illegally ought to be allowed to stay as guests, without citizenship, but that beginning now we vigilantly try to keep out any others coming here illegally. If we do not, if we continue to refuse to dam the waters, the flood will carry along with the majority of decent, hard-working migrants the jetsam of those who would bring with them the type of violent disregard for the lives of others that can at best cause severe suffering to Americans and at worst destabilize our society.

We hope that the Mexican government--Federal and local--will be able to gain the upper hand and eventually break the power of the narcotrafficers. Until they do, we can only view conditions in Mexico with increasing alarm and insist on containing the situation lest it begin to cause serious problems within our borders. Again: let me clarify that I do not mean that most Mexicans living in the United States are dangerous. What I hope to make clear is that the currently powerful drug cartels are ruthless in a way rarely seen in the past and that if we do not control our borders they may very possibly bring their standard business model of intimidation and violence to our nation.


In a completely unrelated matter, a staffer here at Meridian Heat suggests that the woman Al Gore might have had as paramour was the female robot that famously married a Japanese couple last month.

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