News your connection to The Boston Globe

Father's message lost on Bush

In November 1989, President Bush's father praised the fall of the Berlin Wall by saying, "It clearly is a good development in terms of human rights." He added, "We're saluting those who can move forward with democracy. We are encouraging the concept of a Europe whole and free ...... I don't think anyone can resist it, in Europe or in the Western Hemisphere."

In that Thanksgiving address, he also said, "Around the world tonight, new pilgrims are on a voyage to freedom, and for many, it's not a trip to some faraway place but to a world of their own making. On other Thanksgivings, the world was haunted by the images of watchtowers, guard dogs, and machine guns. In fact, many of you had not even been born when the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961. But now the world has a new image, reflecting a new reality: that of Germans, East and West, pulling each other to the top of the wall, a human bridge between nations."

In his call last night to send thousands of National Guard troops to the border between the United States and Mexico, the son once again failed to listen to the father. Bush is sending the Iraq-weary Guard to the border to mollify hardline conservatives who are building their careers around - whether they say this explicitly or not -- a brown invasion from the south.

Over the weekend, White House officials swore up and down that the United States was not militarizing the border. "It's about assisting the civilian Border Patrol in doing their job, providing intelligence, providing support, logistics support and training and these sorts of things," said National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. White House counselor Dan Bartlett said the Guard "will not have law enforcement responsibilities or powers. They will be there in a supportive role."

If Bush insists on the Guard going to the watchtowers, let us hope that is all that happens. But the mobilization exacerbates the image of the United States as a nation that exploits the cheap labor of Mexicans and other undocumented workers while conservatives exploit the rhetoric of throwing them back across the wall.

Even as Bush swears to Mexican President Vicente Fox that the United States still considers Mexico a friend, there have been several assaults on Latinos from members of other races. While hate crimes in Los Angeles County dropped overall in 2004, according to county officials, they increased for Latinos and Asians. In April, Latino teenagers were taunted and threatened by a teen with a machete and a chainsaw on Long Island. A Latino teenager in Spring, Texas, was assaulted and beaten in April. A University of Colorado cross-country runner quit the team in December after writing an e-mail to a Latino teammate calling him "river rat" and "border hopper." Last fall in Georgia, six Latino men who worked on farms and lived in squalid trailers were beaten or shot to death.

Militarizing the border, or building the proposed 700-mile wall, cannot possibly be serious solutions, when everyone knows our economy thrives off the labor sneaking across it. Bush would be better off figuring out how much labor the United States needs, figuring out a way to making it legal, and working with Fox to improve the lives of Mexicans in Mexico so they will not want to flee.

His dad seemed to have understood that when he told the United Nations in 1992, "In the face of today's changes, with the loss of so much that was familiar and predictable, there is now a great temptation for people everywhere to turn inward and to build walls around themselves: walls against trade, walls against people, walls against ideas and investment, walls against anything that appears new and different. As the Berlin Wall fell, these walls, too, must fall. They must fall because we cannot separate our fate from that of others. Our peace is so interconnected, our security so intertwined, our prosperity so interdependent that to turn inward and retreat from the world is to invite disaster and defeat." Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives