The tide of refugees and immigrants and the resulting walls and discussions of walls – in Europe and the U.S. – remind me of a sculpture I saw at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Border Dynamics” is a greater than life-sized metal work created by Guadalupe Serrano and Alberto Morackis of Taller Yonke.
People on each side of a wall push against it. Yet, who is trying to get by? Who is resisting?
The figure on the left in the foreground appears almost bored, apathetic, in his effort. Is he worn out by the effort? Acting out of obligation rather than belief?
Meanwhile, the figure on the right shows purpose, determination. There may be desperation in his face.
The figures behind these two have different attitudes. One pushes with greater energy, one with less. But neither in the same way as the figures in the foreground.
Maybe the figures on the right are trying to push the wall down, but maybe they are not. Maybe they are trying to hold back the tide of immigrants, those weary travelers barely able to stand against yet one more barrier.
Who has more resolve? People seeking to keep people out? Or people seeking to get in? The range of emotions on both sides of the fence indicate the answer is not clear or united on either side.
My work in progress – a contemporary novel set in Iowa – includes characters on all sides of the immigrant issue. Exploring and presenting these diverse points of view honestly and fairly is a challenge that makes writing this novel particularly interesting. In each scene, I seek to understand the world view of the characters to know how they’ll behave. Often the characters surprise me, acting in ways I don’t expect.
As I write, I run into the wall of my own prejudices and am forced to look back on my life and explore the defining moments that shaped my attitudes and actions. One of the reasons I write what I do is because writing offers an opportunity to understand myself and the world around me. This novel is doing that – in spades. And it’s often uncomfortable.
I circled the “Border Dynamics” sculpture, studying the the figures, trying to imagine each one’s story. I came away with more questions than answers. Like the discussions of immigrants and borders and walls we face today.