'Once you reach this point, how do you go back?'

The blunt object of God and Country continues to mash its way through the truth about immigration.

It’s usually around the one-hour mark when I start to fade. He is talking about North Korea, about how good of a deal he made with his buddy, Kim. Or he is talking about taxes, and how they’re lower now because of him which has made the economy better and only he could have done that. He is describing in great detail how bad men tie up women and put tape over their mouths to smuggle them across the border, where they are sold as sex slaves. No one knows where this story comes from but it doesn’t matter because he is saying it, and when he is saying things Many People pay attention, and that is the point.

Donald Trump spoke at the El Paso County Coliseum last night and at the one-hour mark I had had just about enough, but at least I wasn’t there.

The last time I was, hundreds of people from all over the world were becoming citizens at a naturalization ceremony. A local judge told the new citizens that they’d soon have the ability to exercise the most important right of all Americans in the upcoming mid-term elections. Last night it was filled with men and women who have lives, jobs, and children, and who used that right to elect Trump president. They are people who pay their taxes and contribute to their communities and make sure the trains run on time. Doctors, lawyers, garbage men, plumbers, teachers, maybe some writers.

But last night they were empty vessels, capable only of consuming and spitting out various messages and catchphrases when prompted by Trump. It is a bizarre thing to witness even if you’re only watching it on TV. Reporters aren’t supposed to say things like the following because we’re supposed to always be curious and never assume things but there is nothing you can really learn from a Trump rally, even one in as diverse and fascinating a place as El Paso.

Trump rallies only serve to reinforce one’s own beliefs. He is a bizarre idiot or a groundbreaking genius. He is keeping us safe or prompting the downfall of our empire. You are a patriot or a traitor, a believer or a heretic.

It is the zero sum game of politics.

“The money that he’s proposing to spend on a border wall would be much better spent on ports of entry. If you want to spend $5.6 billion on infrastructure at the border, spend it on beefing up security at ports of entry,” Vince Perez, an El Paso County commissioner, told me after Trump’s rally. “But, no, it’s about the wall. That’s what I’m saying, it’s about absolutes. It’s you’re either with us or against us, and I think that’s exactly what his speech was about. It’s not about whether the wall will stop drugs and crime and illegal immigration, it’s just about getting the wall built. Building it for the sake of building it.”

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Perez is a big fan of noting that Trump’s rhetoric does not match the reality of life in El Paso, which is to say it doesn’t match the reality of life in many places on the border or the facts about immigration at all.  

Here are some of those facts.

Illegal immigration is not a crisis threatening the vast majority of Americans’ lives and jobs. It’s pretty easy to understand this when you consider that no one was holding rallies on the border and demanding billions of dollars for a wall until Trump became president. If illegal immigration was as big of a problem as he claims, you’d think Republicans would have been clamoring for these policies before 2016.

More migrants are travelling to the border to claim asylum because the countries they’re coming from are starting to look like failed states, but they are not being granted asylum in much greater numbers than in the past.

Trump has responded to this new trend of asylum-seekers not by increasing the ability to process claims at ports of entry, but by sending troops to the border, most recently to Eagle Pass, Texas. There, the troops wait on our side of the line while hundreds of migrants take shelter in an abandoned factory in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent dozens of Texas Department of Public Safety officers to Eagle Pass, where they joined other law enforcement in lining up along the border at night with all their lights flashing in some bizarre, tough-guy show of force against desperate migrants.

The three empty vessels on Fox & Friends called the act “impressive” the other morning, speaking about the episode with the same sort of reverence you get with a 21-gun salute or taps playing — thank God for these brave men and women keeping us safe.

At the border, a mother and her child with a pink backpack approach a line of border officers, who have their fucking riot helmets out like something is actually going to happen.

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After the rally I called Perez. I wanted to hear his thoughts on Trump’s speech, but I also just needed to hear a sane voice on the other end of the phone, saying accurate and truthful things about the border specifically and life more generally.

Trump and many Republicans are blunt objects that destroy things like knowledge, debate, context and nuance. Just mashing their way through such complexities by making everything about God, Family and Country.

“At the end I think was a good example, it was exactly what Ted Cruz was doing to Beto,” Perez said of Trump’s speech.

During their battle in the mid-terms, Cruz constantly portrayed O’Rourke as an open-borders socialist. The messaging was so effective that even some Hispanics in El Paso told me that’s who O’Rourke was, using that exact phrase, open borders socialist. Where Cruz believed in Jesus and the Flag, O’Rourke wanted a secular world in which countries were just identities of the past.

This is Texas, so it worked.

“We are a country that’s about freedom and we are about family values, not government bureaucracy, we will always believe in Democracy,” Perez said, mimicking the simplicity of Trump’s and Cruz’s message.

This was perhaps no more evident last night than during a moment that surely got a lot of blood pumping throughout the land. Discussing various Democratic Party policy positions and the Green New Deal, Trump took a hearty stand against the growing threat of socialism in this country.

“We’re born free, we will live free and we will die free. We will always be free,” he told the crowd.

Then, the big line.

“America will never be a socialist country.”

Because socialism is bad, while capitalism is great. A wall will fix things, and Democrats will make them bad. This is black, that is white. He is right, they are wrong.

Things are much more simple this way. More manageable.

“I’ve been in government and politics for over a decade,” Perez said. “And it seems like, once you reach this point, how do you go back?”

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P.S. The first and second photos in this post are mine. The first is from Trump’s failed rally in Chicago in 2015, when a diverse group of young activists shut it down before Trump even took the stage. He hasn’t returned to an area that diverse in a major city ever since. He stays in his safe spaces now. The second photo is from June at Paso del Norte. The third photo is from yesterday in Eagle Pass. It was taken by Stephanie Leutert, a researcher and academic who studies migration and border policies and procedures. It was used with her permission.