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Turkish journalist, blogger and media expert. Writes regular columns for The Arab Weekly and contributes to Süddeutsche Zeitung, El Pais and the Guardian. An European Press Prize Laureate for 'excellence in journalism' in 2014, Baydar was awarded the prestigious 'Journalistenpreis' in Germany by Südosteuropa Foundation in February 2018.
This is the story of a river, a legend of mythological proportions, separating two countries, and their peoples. Rio Grande has long been targeted by the anti-immigration movement of the US, which is now represented by its fiercely isolationist and obsessed president.
After Donald Trump was elected, he pursued his campaign promise to build a wall along the nearly two thousand miles of border between the United States and Mexico. The Rio Grande’s “disappearance” took on fresh meaning. As imagined, such an undertaking would be devastating to life along an already threatened river.
The wall, Trump hopes, will block the stream of immigrants, fleeing a country marked by inequality, poverty and immense violence, leaving Mexico bleeding.
Of course, no one is proposing that a wall be built in the middle of the river, or for that matter on Mexican soil, even if Mexico is going to pay for it. So the wall would go on the American side, some distance from its banks—miles into U.S. territory, at times. It would cut people off from their own property and wildlife from the main (and sometimes the only) water source in a vast upland desert. The Center for Biological Diversity has determined that ninety-three listed or proposed endangered species would be adversely affected. The wall could disrupt the flow of what meagre water there is, upon which an ecosystem precariously depends. And it would essentially seal the United States off from the river and cede it to Mexico: lopping off our nose to spite their face. It would shrink the size of Texas.
These are, of course, only the geographical consequences, if Trump enforces his will, with or without Mexico. The border line would be marking severe changes that would rattle the world across the lines of identity versus diversity, and collective selfishness versus mass despair.
Follow author Nick Paumgarten as he paddles through Rio Grande's history and present magnificence, towards a future filled with question marks.