About DukeEngage Tucson 2010

Immigration is perhaps the single largest domestic challenge facing both the United States and Mexico today. People die nearly every week attempting to cross the border. Hostilities against immigrants in the U.S. rise daily. Local, state, and international relations are increasingly strained.

For eight weeks this summer, seven students have been given the opportunity to travel to Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico to study the many faces of immigration. Following two weeks of meetings with local activists, a Border Patrol agent, a federal public defender, lawyers, members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, maquiladora owners, Grupos Beta employees, migrants, and local farmers, we will spend six weeks partnered with Southside Day Labor Camp, BorderLinks, or Humane Borders in order to further immerse ourselves in the issues of immigration.

This blog chronicles our experiences and our perspectives on what we learn while here in Arizona. We hope our stories are interesting and informative.


Monday, July 5, 2010

A New Kind of Patriotism

I am white. I am female. I am brunette. I am heterosexual. I am American.

All of these statements characterize me in one way or another – my physical appearance, my personality, my privilege. Being brunette has enabled me never to be characterized as a “dumb blonde”. Being heterosexual has provided armor against hate slurs that many gays and lesbians face on a daily basis. Likewise, being female has left me vulnerable to objectification and occasional marginalization. I, luckily, have been born with more privilege than most, though it is often hard to recognize.

I have always been fairly patriotic, always singing along to the national anthem and tearing up during pre-match fly overs (a trait I inherited from my rarely-teary-eyed mother). However, this Independence Day I’m forced to look at my country through a different lens – the perspective of the less privileged. Perhaps the most difficult part of my American identity is admitting that simply being born white and on American soil has afforded me most of my successes in life. I attended a public high school for free. I had an opportunity to go to college. I live in a house with four walls, running water, and electricity.

We have spent all summer in Mexico and Arizona looking at our country, our government, our society in a different light. I will be the first to admit that it isn’t easy. The intensely patriotic part of me finds myself skeptical of those criticizing the United States. The humanitarian in me finds myself questioning our country, our policies, and what it means to be American. For the first 20 years of my life being American meant being fortunate, being moral, being open, and being able to help. Coming to the border has meant packing many of these ideals into a cocoon of experiences, nervous and skeptical of what America meant after the metamorphosis that is this summer.

I have come to recognize that to be American is an assortment of oxymorons. To be American is to be unconsciously conscious of what’s really happening in American politics. Reading the newspaper, following C-SPAN, watching the nightly news provides a naïve consciousness of politics that will never give white America the experience of living the consequences of failed public policy.

I was recently asked to examine my self-interest in studying the border. Was it résumé padding? An insatiable intellectual appetite? The chance to stand on a soapbox of sorts? No. I don’t think it was any of these. I think my self-interest in studying border politics is patriotism. It’s knowing that I can question my government’s policies. It’s being able to speak the truth of people dying in the desert. It’s my desire to keep America’s good name reputable and respectable. Being American is the privilege to travel, to be educated, to be provided for. Being American means recognizing change and refusing to settle for the status quo. I cannot say this metamorphosis and recognition of change has left me empty or pessimistic. It hasn’t. Patriotism has become more hopeful, more optimistic because I know now that I have the power and the privilege to change what is so obviously broken.

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