The Old Man is probably sixty or sixty-five but he could easily pass for seventy. Living all his life under the climate that bares down on the west coast region of Central Mexico where he was born, has left his face with the weather beaten features that timid painters cautiously avoid and bold artists are forever seeking.
He had a nice place down south where he was born and raised. Unfortunately, he can't go there anymore. Some years back, the Old Man and his family were living peacefully in their town when a hired gunman made a hit and accidentally murdered the wrong guy. The victim was the Old Man's son. But the Old Man had more than one son. One night, one of those son's, tracked down the man responsible for his brother's death. Using a wooden club, he beat the killer to death. Unlike the hit man, he got the right guy.
Suffice it to say, the family became refugees real quick. Now they are lost amongst the thousands of refugees (both economic and violence driven) in Tijuana today. Many of whom have similar stories to tell. Some of the Old Man's sons have crossed the border, where they work as undocumented laborers. Whatever they can send back is what the Old Man lives on. I doubt if it's much.
I heard this story from a second hand source. From a journalistic viewpoint there was a notepad full of questions I wanted to ask: Did the son who used the club also cross the border? What state in Mexico? What cartel was the hit man from? Where does his family live and can I speak to them?  You always want the who, what, when, where, how and why of a story. You always want that first person account. But lifeless fingers leave the keyboard silent. And silenced voices in societies, are the cruelest evil of man's many.
There is a reason why a free press is the only job skill protected in the Bill of Rights. There is a reason why it was once known as the fourth estate. Those reasons are why those who practice the craft, should insure the integrity of their guild. It's erosion is as much a cause of newspapers fading in circulation as the internet, cable television and a bad economy.
I disagree with those who say that Tijuana is dangerous for the average citizen or visiting tourist. It has its safe spots and its rough ones. Just like any other city going through tough economic times. Tijuana is dangerous if you are a crooked cop worried about the feds (who for the most part aren't), an honest cop worried about the cartels (who corrupt with the oft mentioned plomo o plata), people who flaunt their wealth or anybody who does business with the bad guys. The motto of the average citizen is; 'If you don't look for trouble. Trouble won't find you.'
There is one other group that is in danger in Tijuana. They are the people who expose the bad guys and more importantly, the bad guys who pretend to be good guys. Cynics of the press may say that it too is business, but this unemployed dishwasher begs to differ. Investigative journalists who do their job disrupt the businesses of the bad guys. They are just as valuable a tool to the cleaning up of any dirty city as an honest cop. You don't need good politicians to run a city. You just need honest and well paid teachers, law enforcement and journalists. An honest triad of those three groups working together could control the hogs at the trough.
The results of a recent poll (Nov/2008) taken by the Mexican government (Encuesta National Sobre Cultura Politica y Practicas Ciudanas) and published in the April 19, 2009 issue of Tijuana's La Frontera revealed some interesting stats. When asked; 'En quien tiene mucha confianza? (In who do you have a lot of confidence?), respondents chose the church- 42% and the army-38%, first and second. At number eleven were empresarios/businessmen and dead last, at number twelve were political parties. I wonder what the percentage is of Mexican citizens who have a lot of confidence in the cartels. That option wasn't amongst the twelve choices given to Mexico's people. For some folks around here, a cartel member is an honest bad guy. Whereas a politician is a dishonest bad guy because he pretends to be a good guy. Who do you think they are going to have more respect for?
When I think of the violence that periodically flares up along the US-Mexico border. There are two quotes that immediately come to mind. The first is from the play Hamlet; "...many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills...." The second is something my grandpa often told me when he'd see me voraciously devouring history books as a child. Gramps would say; "Any idiot can start a war. It takes a genius to start a peace." Coffee's Ready, Gotta Go!!!


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