Border Ball : THE OTAY MESA PORT OF ENTRY

NOVEMBER 17

“The artist is the servant of need.”

MY WAY OF WALKING WITH JOEL TAUBER, keeping my mind on the road.  RA

Finding a few sensible words to remind that Joel is an artist, and his journey through the border is an art piece. The manners of expressing truths change more than the weather. They must change. The old nest, writes a poet, must be recreated.  

William Carlos William walks with us right now. Surely sun and heat are implacable at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in the middle of the day. The flow of people, in which the artist does not isolate himself, tries to ignore the weather. Stories and game break the cartilage of the border, the inevitable scar tissues. History moves, no one escapes. What’s freedom? It’s an old symbol we take for granted. It was the main symbol when America became the promised land from those who escaped Europe since the beginning of nineteen hundred, and before and after, hoping to leave misery and oppressions behind. 

Today, maybe, it’s good to remind the poet’s precision, suggesting that

“Liberty is the better word. It was liberty they needed, not so much liberty for freedom’s sake but liberty to partake of, to be included in and to conserve. Liberty, in this sense, has the significance of inclusion rather than a breaking away. It is the correct sense for the understanding of America. … But to have liberty one must be first a man, cultured by circumstances to maintain oneself under adverse weather conditions as still part of the whole. Discipline is implied.

But freedom remained the commonly accepted and much copied cliché, implying lack od discipline, dispersion.

The real character of the people is not toward dispersion except for a temporary phase for the gathering of power, but to unite. To form a union. To work toward a common purpose — to resist the weather.”

(William Carlos Williams, Against the Weather – A study of the Artist, 1939)

by JOEL TAUBER

I’m getting ready for the 17th day of Border-Ball: a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. – Mexico border. I start each day at noon at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. It’s wonderful to see so many people cross the border, even in the middle of the day – both into the U.S. and into Mexico. There are distinct pathways for trucks, cars, and pedestrians; and each of these pathways are always busy.

I find the fluidity of movement at the port to be extremely beautiful. The constant flow of people from so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds reminds me that the United States is a place of immigrants and diversity. And, so, I’m often moved to declare:

Oh, say, can you see, our country’s gorgeous dream: an endless field of green, where everyone can live and play? Our star-spangled banner yet waves, over the land of immigrants and the home of us all!

I spend most of my time at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on the pedestrian bridge, tossing a ball. I introduce myself to people I meet and ask them to share their stories, experiences and thoughts about the border and baseball. Then, we play catch.

The borders between us disappear when I’m listening to their stories. And our connections deepen when we play catch. It’s amazing to me how, even after sharing incredibly sad and heartbreaking stories, people start smiling and laughing once we play catch. All of a sudden, we are friends, playing and laughing together.

We are all on the same team, after all.

People thank me. And, I thank them for connecting with me and for giving me strength to continue my long 7 mile journey each day: from the port of entry, along the wall, and up to the detention center – and then back again.

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