"I am, I am, I am.DOUGLAS, ARIZONA — "Manuel Escandon Morales!"
"I am a patriot. And I love my country. Because my country is all I know."
— Jackson Browne, I Am A Patriot
Tuesday I took part in a ceremony in downtown Douglas.
Local activists and visiting students from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, near my home town of Sheldon, Iowa, were also there on alternative spring break.
We each hold our cross in the air and the rest say "Presente!"
On the white cross I hold it says that Manuel was born Feb. 15, 1967.
He died June 26, 2002 in the desert of Cochise County, outside of Douglas.
Because he had to hide. We would not let him walk in on the sidewalk. He was a man with heart, who wanted a good life for his children, and we killed him.
We stand on the Pan American Highway, which runs from Douglas into Agua Prieta, Mexico.
When we are done the road is lined with white crosses.
The crosses run from the border patrol port of entry down the road to the intersection at the fast food restaurant.
I'm staying with Paul and Judy Plank. The rest of the year they live about a half hour from me in Iowa, in Remsen.
During the past ten winters they have been coming to Arizona. They live in the Arizona Friends Community outside of Douglas.
Each week the Planks attend the Tuesday vigils, organized by the local group Healing Our Borders. Judy is also involved in a many other local projects to help the migrants, providing work, blankets encouragement.
This is what we should all be doing.
But we are not.
We also spent $25 million for a new Border Patrol station at Douglas. There is lots of money, lots of jobs in keeping other people poor. There is all kinds of high-tech cameras and sensing devices set up all around in the desert.
We are on a tour of the area and out to look at the twelve-foot-tall fence. A border patrol agent sits in a green and white jeep.
As we leave another agent comes up for the 3 p.m. shift change — to watch the fence, in case some poor people decide to risk their lives to make a better life for their children, we will be there to make sure they go to jail.
The real terrorists are George Bush & Co. They did 911. That is whom we have to fear, not Manuel Morales.
I am for open borders.
I think, since we are a Christian nation, that we should help poor people. That's kind of what Christianity is all about. I ask Paul and Judy if anyone in their group would agree with me.
"Oh, yes!" they both say.
Paul and Judy will head back to Iowa in about three weeks, to see family and to escape rattlesnake season in the desert. Judy once had to chase one away from her porch with a broom.
I ask about the cactus, the plants, the trees, everything.
Paul adds a note about tarantulas and scorpions.
"There's nothing warm and cuddly here," says Paul. "Everything is either hard, prickly, or poking."
On Highway 80 into Douglas I passed the "Geronimo Surrenders" monument.
I look around and realize this is where Geronimo was. He's not here anymore. We killed him.
... "but Tonto he was smarter, and one day said, Kimosabe — kiss my__________________
ass, I bought a boat, I'm going out to sea."
— Lyle Lovett, If I Had A Boat
Judy notes that once a year they go over to Agua Prieta to "Revolution Days" where all the children dress up with mustaches and big hats to look like Pancho Villa.
He was later killed too, by an assassin to gain a United States reward.
A few days earlier Judy went with friends to Fort Huachuca, one of the places where our military interrogators are trained, such as the ones at Abu Ghraib. The fort is also the place where the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed, the ones who slaughtered the Indians.
In the morning we watch the Winter Soldiers hearings on Democracy Now. Paul and Judy have a grandson serving in Iraq.
Everyone should have seen those hearings.
Why didn't that happen?
One former soldier states:
"This country's apathy. Our president's continued rhetoric. You are all responsible."
He then ripped up the medal General Petraeus had pinned on him.
If that were on NBC, that would be the end of the war.
Another mother and father talk about how their son came to kill himself after coming back from five months in Iraq.
Ever wonder if you're on the wrong side of the fence?
March 19: Tucson
Location: Northwest Neighborhood Center
March 20: Las Vegas, Drinking Liberally
Location: Tenaya Creek Restaurant & Brewery
Address: 3101 Tenaya Way
Time: 630 pm.