Alex Webb, "Mexican Border" (1978)
Alex Webb, Mexican Border (1978)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

July 12, 2003:

Nighttime. Park on any hill facing south. Sparkling city lights reach for miles eastward. To the south they stop, suddenly, along a perfectly straight line running the whole width of the horizon.

That line is the international border with Mexico. Mexico is a Third World country: most of its people are poor compared with us. That poverty begins suddenly, exactly where those lights end.

Nighttime. A mesa east of Chula Vista, California.

Angry-looking people with white skin assemble facing south. Station wagons, minivans. Middle-class families from the suburbs. A right-wing radio talk show host named Roger Hedgecock has organized them into a demonstration he labels "Light Up the Border!" They've come to shine their station wagon lights on a well-known spot where numbers of Mexican workers cross the fence illegally in the darkness, risking arrest or worse in seek of opportunity.

Hedgecock speaks into the cameras. A former Mayor of San Diego, he had relatively liberal politics before being convicted of campaign finance fraud and jailed. His right-wing rebirth surprised some former supporters, who felt it was a cynical, careerist pose riding the Reagan wave. Everyone but his listeners call him "Roger Hedgecrook."

The usual nonsense. Mexican illegals are stealing American jobs. (They're not.) Mexican illegals live on U.S. Welfare taxes. (They don't. They work.) Mexican illegals suck tax moneys out of the local economy. (They don't. They pay the same payroll taxes and Social Security as U.S. citizens, without collecting those services, contributing a net of billions to the Southern California economy, effectively lowering taxes for the angry suburbanites Hedgecock mobilizes.) This is right-wing demagoguery manipulating irrational, semi-conscious racism. I guess it's a living.

Speech over. The demonstration is ready to begin. Hedgecock has used his airwaves to build this event for a month; the turnout is several dozen. On his signal, the people start their engines. A second signal, they turn on their headlights.

Below them in the flat are several hundred counter-demonstrators holding a billboard-sized sign with letters painted day-glo pink. "Our poverty pays for your wealth." The Americans gasp. The idea that Mexicans, of all people, might have the ability to organize too is the last thing in the world that would ever have occurred to them.

A newborn cries. Mercy Hospital, Hillcrest district, San Diego, California.

The new child is American.

Twenty minutes to the south another child is born in another hospital in another country.

That new child is Mexican.

Twenty minutes apart, yet the gulf between their lives will be as wide as a universe.