Border Dwelling – A Fascinating and Uncomfortable Calling

Mexican boy at the border

One of the ways I tend to describe my challenged identity to those who want to know who I really am is to say that I am a ‘border dweller, negotiating traffic between opposing realities‘. It is a fascinating position, as you are able to look critically at both realities, and to be enriched  equally by both. It is, however, also a dangerous position, since those who are there are usually shot at from both sides. Yet, to be authemtic, one has to be what one is called to be, as unconfortable as that might sound.

Today I found a very interesting article, written by Robert Hunt, an American Methodist author I usually read with great interest (with a simple search, you may find a few of his texts on my blog, especially on topics related to Palestine and Israel). The article I mentioned here, titled ‘Privilege and Loss of Personnhood‘, ends with a fabulously rich poem in prose by Gloria Anzaldúa, which sumarises well my feelings about what it means to be a ‘border dweller’, be it in Mexican terms, in this case. Here it is:

* * *

To Live In The Borderlands
by  Gloria Anzaldúa

To live in the Borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra espanola
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps
while carrying all five races on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing
that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,

is no longer speaking to you,
the mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you

is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera
people walk through you, the wind steals your voice,
you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat,
forerunner of a new race,
half and half-both woman and man, neither-a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to
put chile in the borscht,
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to
resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have scattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;

To live in the Borderlands means
the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras.
be a crossroads.

Robert Hunt – Reforming American Views of Islam. A View from the Tranches

Dr. Robert Hunt was the distinguished speaker at the “Tea-time Lecture Series” for the Alumni of Turkey Trips. The event, co-sponsored by the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, took place at Turquoise Center.

Dr. Robert Hunt is Director of Global Theological Education and Professor of Christian Mission and Inter-religious Relations at Southern Methodist University. Continue reading “Robert Hunt – Reforming American Views of Islam. A View from the Tranches”

Robert Hunt – A Second Letter from Jerusalem

Dear friends,

1. From Tel Aviv

Let me start with a map. The distance from the Jordan river (border of Jordan) to the Mediterranean Sea in the center of Israel is just over 40 miles. Everything is compressed. There isn’t a lot of physical space. And that space holds a lot of history.

Almost anywhere you dig, literally anywhere, you will find layer upon layer of different cultures and civilizations. And that space holds a lot of different peoples. The distinction between Arabs and Jews doesn’t begin to express it. There are many kinds of each, including not only theological divisions but essentially ethnic divisions as well.

But it isn’t just different peoples. It is different worldviews and viewpoints. And these struggle with space and for space; social, psychological, and spiritual. We have heard about the difficulty for politicians to “remain within the consensus,” meaning the current multi-party government, when a large part of the constituency wants to break out over sometimes minute ideological issues. But issues critical to their sense of community identity. We have heard of how women struggle to stay within orthodoxy because they do not want to suffer the dual punishment of facing both misogyny and exile from their community and tradition. Continue reading “Robert Hunt – A Second Letter from Jerusalem”

Robert Hunt – A New Year in Jerusalem

Jerusalem - New Year fireworks
(source of picture, here)

Dear friends,

It is New Years Eve 2013. I am sitting in a bar drinking arak on the rocks. Alone, mostly. Next to me a table of well heeled, mature, Italians are popping bottles of prosecco and passing around photos of themselves in solemn procession with a huge cross on the Via Dolorosa. Since a priest is doing the honors with a couple of large panettone cakes I think its clear they’ve shifted gears. So in a world of mixed sentiments the festival closest in memory stirs them to sing “Silent Night” in Italian. Really? Okay, now they’ve launched into a sentimental Italian quasi operatic pop song (which is actually all Italian pop.) Before long  . . . Sure enough they are gathered around the piano player (who paused in his endless series of old broadway show tunes) and they are singing “Que Sera Sera.”

I need another arak on the rocks. Continue reading “Robert Hunt – A New Year in Jerusalem”

Robert Hunt – Religion Is the Problem

There is a lot of talk these days about Islam and its supposedly evil foundations. Many Westerners are feeling threatened by the mere existence of Islam and Muslims. Strangely enough, some of these claim to be followers of Christ, who taught us to love our enemies, be them real or imagined.

Robert Hunt, a Methodist professor of theology in the US has traveled a lot in Muslim countries and has an intimate knowledge of the problem, both in the East and in the West.

I quote here below, for your attention, a few paragraphs from a recent post on his blog on the Patheos platform.

* * *

“I also want to say that Islam, beyond the exaggerations, points the finger at something real: under the guise of freedom, in the West we tend to ridicule religion. In the days of his visit in Lebanon, the Pope spoke of violence in words and in deeds. If we want to free the world from violence, we must also free ourselves from the violence of words, from this strong way of offending religion. Unfortunately, the Christians of the West are submissive and unresisting in the face of insults to Christianity.” (Samir Kalil Samir, writing in the AsianNews and reported from Beirut on 9/23/12)

the exploitation of civil religion as a tool to achieve or secure political power by an emperor, king, or dictator is quite comprehensible. For the pre-modern state religion, whether it was Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or some Vedic cult, was an important symbol of the unity of the state and society, a source of social mores, an explanation of and justification for the existing hierarchy, and was thus a bulwark of state power. It was natural that the state supported and protected this civil religion, arguably for the good of all those who lived within it and benefited from its religious, cultural, and social cohesion.The problem in this system, a problem that animated the turn from pre-modernity to modernity, was the way in which this alliance of state power and civil religion constrained personal freedom of conscience. Continue reading “Robert Hunt – Religion Is the Problem”

Prof. Robert Hunt – Impressions from Jerusalem – 5

Palestinian image of hope

26 July 2012

Dear friends,

Its early morning in the hotel, the last morning of this trip. We have seen angry hope, sad hope, resigned hope, cynical hope, confused hope, naïve hope, and possibly even hopeless hope. And we’ve see the parallel forms of hopelessness.

In Tel Aviv we met, as I have met before, a city at once familiar and sad. Familiar because it could be any down-at-the-heal Eastern European city. And that includes the tree lined avenues with broken sidewalks, the three and four story shophouses and apartments, the mixture of international and newer styles of architecture, the vibrant street life, the cafes. The sea, omnipresent in the atmosphere, is blue and lovely even if the shore is rocky. Yet there is also the emptiness. Continue reading “Prof. Robert Hunt – Impressions from Jerusalem – 5”

Prof. Robert Hunt – Impressions from Jerusalem – 4


Dear friends,

I’m writing on a bus that is touring the edges of Jerusalem and thus the contested boundaries with the West Bank. But you don’t want to hear about that, believe me.

So let’s get to something even less pleasant. Last night as I was walking back from a pleasant dinner at the Anna Tico House I dropped by our local grocer to buy a bottle of arak. As I approached the counter I heard the Israeli Jewish clerk raise his voice, and proceed to be rather ugly to an elderly American Jewish couple because they asked for directions. He extended his, ‘you ignorant Americans’ to a diatribe about how America enslaves people and he hopes it is utterly destroyed. I was surprised, since the US is at least Israel’s best friend and possibly its only friend. So I asked, as one should, a local interpreter. And got an earful. Continue reading “Prof. Robert Hunt – Impressions from Jerusalem – 4”