Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Running for Their Lives

No one can deny the power of language. As we all know, words can be contorted in ways that toy with our perceptions, prejudices, and sense of reality. The most obvious example of these tactics are apparent in the euphemistic discourse of the military and the strategic jargon used by governments:

  • friendly fire

  • collateral damage

  • neutralize

  • soft targets

  • body count

  • rogue states

In spite of all this questionable terminology, the word that irks me the most would have to be illegal aliens. Seriously...when did it become OK to officially refer to other human beings as aliens?? Sure, we're talking about illegal immigration and the coinciding cost in tax payer dollars, but let's not forget the ridiculous amount of public spending and foreign investments going into the supposed War on Terror.

Worst of all, the term, illegal aliens, conveniently separates the humanity from the real problems--NAFTA ( in the case of Mexico), poverty, war, struggling economies, corrupt governments--so much so that another ugly portrait is painted instead. This us against them mentality conjures up negative imagery involving: a group of foreign parasitic fence-jumpers who have the audacity to free-load off our system. How dare they! --You get the point.

So for just a moment, let's flip this lens.

How far would you go in order to save your family from poverty? Would you break the law? Would you risk your own life? Imagine that you had no other options....

Quique dreams of El Norte, a land of opportunity where the poor become rich, the sick can afford care, and children become educated. Despite this romanticized view of both Canada and America, for Quique, anything seems better than his life in Honduras.

At 20 years-old, Quique lives in an ubiquitous Central American slum, where his wife, young son, and 11 other family members live under the same corrugated tin roof. Since the average wage of a Honduran is a mere $900 CAD/ year, it is impossible to escape this trap of poverty. But for the sake of his family, Quique figures that it's worth a shot...

Him and his travel companions, Chacon, Daniel, and Eber, have only $100 between them but are determined as ever to cross that finish line. But the journey itself is not for the faint of heart. Spanning nearly 5000 km, the trip from Honduras to America is as long as it is dangerous. Not only are the border towns in both Guatemala and Mexico overrun by the most notorious of street gangs, their main mode of transportation will be hopping freight trains, the dangers of which range from getting pulled under a rail car to being brutally robbed by a travelling gang member. The trip to El Norte basically makes Everest look like a walk in the park.

So do Quique and his friends beat these terrible odds and make it to El Norte? Will they ever see their families again? Well, you'll have to watch the CBC documentary, Run For Your Life, to find out.

Watch Run For Your Life online right HERE!


karloff said...

Another great post.

The term Illegal Alien has always bothered me, it usually also makes me think of that movie Alien Nation.

The question, "how far would you go for your family" seems to have a lot of resonance with me right now, and also reminds me of your previous post about your discussion with your Mom about your family history after the second world war.

I think the answer in most cases is "as far as it takes." I hope Quique made it.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Thank you Karloff! I think that "illegal alien" should be taken completely out of government discourse--it is bigoted and unneccesary.

After watching Run For Your Life, I was really moved because so many people go to such great lengths to risk their lives in order to save their families and have a mere chance at life. Meanwhile, we're bombarded with all this negative rhetoric about the cost of "illegal aliens" without addressing the real problems. What's wrong with this picture?

You're so right though, I think most people would swim across an ocean to save their family. Quique's story is an amazing example of this....

karloff said...

That's a good point about government language. Biased language is a great bulwark against having to consider change. In an odd way it reminds me of that bit from "silence of the lambs" about humanizing the victim: "it puts the beans in the basket", indeed.

I don't personally hold with the idea that the system is being damaged at all, I think a lot of the hysteria lately has more to do with a) the fear of borders that are easily passed through which b) the right creates a scapegoat to draw people's attention away from the matters at hand.

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