Concertina wire: when I see its shining rolls around here in Virginia—beneath our spacious skies and above our fruited planes—it's being used as a topper for prison walls that sends a clear message: "Stay in there, or get cut up and bleed to death." I suppose that's not the message that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others believe they’re sending to Texans when they make razor wire their flag, their bald eagle, their In God We Trust. Rather, they’re saying "Stay out, or get cut up and bleed to death." Well, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. You won't be headed in either direction.
That Texas wants to be an internment camp, and also wants to cut people up and watch them die, isn’t the most inspiring thing to make into your flag, or to fly proudly as the symbol of your state or nation and your very self. It's hilarious yet outrageous that Abbott believes himself to be a Christian of some sort: the people who crucified Jesus at least didn't claim to be his followers. In the New Testament, Pontius Pilate is depicted as more self-reflective than Abbott. As they flew from King Herod's cruelty into Egypt, Mary and Joseph, as far as historians can determine, didn't encounter any razor wire. If they had, we might not have to worry about Christianity now. However, that might also have preempted this amazing hypocrisy.
In a photo essay in yesterday's New York Times, Mark Peterson depicted an extraordinary religious revival on the banks of the Rio Grande at Quemodo, Texas, somewhere near Del Rio. Hundreds of people gathered to pray and be baptized, and of course to praise razor wire: they were there for God, country, and inflicting death by a thousand cuts on children. Now, throwing Christianity into the mix with your xenophobia and sadism: it just doesn't seem plausible. And that's the good part, I guess: in the long run it may be hard to sell your cult of cruelty to most believers.
With all the gentleness and Christian love I can muster, I tell you that people worshipping under razor wire flags are Satanists, whatever they may purport to believe about themselves. I wonder whether, when you point out with the utmost Christian concern that Abbott worships Satan, he sues your ass or sics an X mob on you, because he believes that's what Satan demands of him. I guess we'll find out.
"Come and take it" indeed. At one time "come and take it" meant: if you come here and try, we'll kick your ass. Now it means: you'll never get here at all through the razor wire, so we're just gonna sit here eating hot wings and gazing at our big screens. I want to point out to Abbott that he could replace razor wire with mines, and turn south Texas into a kind of Ukrainian frontier. Ka-boom, baby!
I was shocked and pleased when, in January, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration could remove the concertina wire that Texas was rolling out across the border. However, it appears that there’s "no timeline" for such removals, and that efforts have been halted. One suspects this is because, as part of his re-election effort, Biden has swung very far toward MAGA, immigration-wise. He’s outraged that Republican Sen. James Lankford's extremely restrictive border measure died. He says that he wants to have the authority to "close" the border, and that he would do so immediately.
I don't know what is meant by "close," exactly, but I have the notion that there will be no anti-razor-wire or anti-wall rhetoric coming out of the administration before Election Day. Democrats are moving strategically to try and pre-empt immigration as a campaign issue. But that just means they’ll be jacking up the cruelty, pursuing the two-party competition to see who can inflict more suffering. As always in American politics these days, it's liable to be a close call.
As deporters and interners, Obama and Biden have been at least as bad as Trump. For example, the Biden administration deports planeloads of people who've spent years getting to the southern border back to Haiti, the worst political and economic disaster in the hemisphere, even as they advise that no American should travel there at all. The best you can say for the suffering-inflicters of both parties: they don't believe that they’re devoted to sheer cruelty for its own sake. Good! But how would we tell, exactly?
I'm surprised, I suppose, by what happens to people morally when they start thinking about borders. I don't think Biden is the sort of person who would specifically personally torture and starve Haitians. But that's only "personally." As a policy, he's strongly in favor, at least as long as it's needed for re-election. I don't think those religious revivalists gathered at the border would personally cut up children in the privacy of their own homes of churches. But the most basic and passionate moral commitments are set aside effortlessly, or with extreme enthusiasm, in this case.
Approaching the border from within, decent people become monsters, Christians start worshipping Satan, and patriots pledge allegiance to a flag of cruelty, cowardice, and unfreedom. For the sake of Greg Abbott's soul, we should try a different approach.
—Follow Crispin Sartwell on X: @CrispinSartwell