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    I am so un-obsessed with the border
    • January 13, 2024

    Un-obsessed with the border, the southern border, the one everyone is talking about, I clearly need to get with the zeitgeist: The border! The border!

    It’s like Conrad’s Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness”:  “The horror! The horror!”

    It’s an existential dread.

    But when I do think of the border, I sometimes get, instead of the zeit or the geist, a little contrarian.

    I recall the work of the performance artist Chris Burden, who, before he got famous with the lamp posts at LACMA, used to do funny things to make you think. Back when essentially all the demon weed consumed in California came from Mexico, or Colombia by way of Mexico, in the early 1970s, Burden went down to the border, found a place where the Rio Grande wasn’t very wide, attached a joint to the fuselage of a balsa-wood wind-up airplane, and, standing on the American side, twisted the rubber band and flew it across the river, where it crash-landed.

    He called the piece “Coals to Newcastle.”

    There are many people who want to come to the United States of America. Instead of making me feel bad, which I understand from editing the letters to the editor is what that makes many people feel, it makes me feel good. I get to live where everyone who isn’t from Norway wants to live! And I’m already here, natural-born! Lucky me.

    This is apparently an eccentric point of view. So, sue me.

    Sometimes, when I am in Mexico  — which is not often, but we did get to spend 10 days tromping the terrible sidewalks of the CDMX last spring, enjoying the great art, architecture, music, food and drink  — I try to track down a quote from a 1980s stoner film in which one young Southern Californian character says to another, “We blew it, man. We coulda been more like Mexico.”

    Can’t find it.

    Perhaps the best culture would be some perfect melding of American and Mexican styles of living. Big-time economic opportunities; fewer neurotic worries about getting ahead.

    Maybe such a culture already exists somewhere: Spain. Did you know the Spaniards are the longest-lived people on Earth?

    But I digress. I am supposed to join the crowd and get het up about the border. OK, let’s work up some outrage here. Yes, it’s scary and weird, seeing thousands of people marching from way the hell down below said border, thousands of miles, toward it, after crossing the harrowing Darien Gap and all. Things aren’t nearly as bad in Mexico as they are in Venezuela, Cuba, and look at that Ecuador, where prison bosses take over the capital with impunity.

    But that was on AMLO, the awful president of Mexico. When he finally decided to shut it down, he did. Talk about a country with a southern border problem.

    Then there’s fentanyl, a lousy killer drug. It’s cheaper to make outside this country, so people smuggle it in. It’s also not all that expensive to make in this country. Shut down the border, there’s still fentanyl.

    Terrorists coming over the border with the ordinary people who just want a job? I regret to inform that if a well-funded terrorist really wants to come in undetected, the long northern border offers vast opportunities from the great white north.

    The people who want to come to the U.S. want to do so because they are eager to work. There are millions of jobs here that they can fill. They need us; we need them. Set up a bracero-like system and let them in. If Congress worked on that instead of various impeachments, its members could get it done. But they don’t. And so we are stuck with the border situation.

    The best thing we can do is help the poor migrants. Do so at or

    Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board. [email protected].


    ​ Orange County Register