Waiting at a bus stop in Austin, Texas. It’s about 5am and the birds are calling from tree to tree, reminding one another they are awake. On the highway across the way, motorists are doing more-or-less the same thing. A gentle breeze helps justify the woolen sweater I’m wearing on this otherwise warm, if overcast, June morning. My first day back in the States.
Buses have been the major feature of my life for the past 24 hours. I’ve had a lot more of them than I have sleep: six so far and hopefully only one more between me and a bed. The schedule here says it should pull up in about an hour, which fits in quite snugly with the hostel’s opening time.
My head is heavy, blocked. The word flow from it to my pen is constricted, coming in random bursts, fits of momentary inspiration. In between just birds and highways.
Mexico, only a day old, is already fading. The friendships I formed there remain as happy images. The sights are washing into a blur. The food has become a longing. The sense of intricate community lives as a vivid contrast to the lonely independence of this frontier land. And the cacophony of sounds that define nearly every Mexican day is becoming, in this moment, birds and highways.
And there is only a river that separates this from that; a brown, muddy, swirling, churning river that defines so much more than a watercourse. There are so many other rivers in the world, so what is it that gives the Rio Grande such a task? How did it earn the reputation of culture divider; nation maker; continent breaker?
It’s easy to mark it all down to a couple of invasions and a few wars, and still the question comes: how can the fate of so many be decided by so few for so long? Who gave them this right? Why am I free to cross that boundary at my will, while thousands of others die trying? Why is the home of some of the greatest cultures in the history of this planet now a nation on its knees? How is a nation forged by convicts and farmers more ‘developed’ than one formed by warriors and wizards?
It occurs to me as I sit here alone on the outskirts of this city, my only company the birds and the highway, that maybe there is more to wealth than money, that maybe the problem lies in the very essence of our definition of ‘developed’.
It reminds me of the last election here, which was apparently won on moral values. I find that hilarious: did anyone notice that the party most deficient in moral values won?