The Symbolism of Not Crossing the Mexican Border

September 21, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


If you’re focusing on the symbolism of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., focus on this: The pope is making a saint out of Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary who played a critical role in the genocide and enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. (See “Junipero Serra and the Pope’s Message for Today.”)

And here’s another major statement: At some point in the preparations for his visit, the pope or his staff floated the idea that the pope would enter the U.S. through Mexico, which in today’s climate of vicious global anti-immigrant xenophobia might have actually come into conflict with some of the fascists in the U.S. ruling class, and raised the question: What is the nature and history of a border (between the U.S. and Mexico) carved out of the violent theft of much of Mexico’s land to extend slavery in the U.S. South?

And such an entrance might have focused attention on the ongoing and extremely unequal and oppressive relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.

So what happened to that idea? The pope told reporters that crossing into the U.S. from Mexico might be “a beautiful gesture” but that he couldn’t do it because, “A war would break out and I don’t have time.” (Huffington Post, January 20, 2015). Whether or not this was said partly tongue in cheek, the pope was alluding to how intense the conflict is between the U.S. and nations to the south it oppresses on the one hand, and clashes in the U.S. power structure concentrated, in the months since he said this, in the fascist rants of Donald Trump.

But did the pope defiantly challenge the atmosphere of xenophobic hatred of immigrants and terror directed at them?

No. New pope or not, the rules are still “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

The pope may condemn “new colonialism” all he wants, but when it comes down to the real world, the limits of protest—even symbolic—are confined to what does not challenge the fundamental setup in this world.



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