My friend Bernie wanted to meet for coffee and gab. Loopholes, he baited me, made accomplishing anything through politics almost impossible.
What did I think about the theory? I had to tell him, not much.
I confessed a thought I have been holding back. It seems that a common assumption has been that facts -- such as true events-- reveal correct assumptions.
Now, however, there's some backsliding and the truth is customized into a plausible fiction.
For instance, how else do you explain a $600 million bill by Congress, which President Barack Obama signed on Aug. 13, for 1,000 more border agents, communications equipment, and surveillance drones to secure the border. This follows the deployment of 1,200 National Guards.
That means more than 10 agents or troops per border mile. You would think the appropriation was for a more definable purpose. Unless of course the money is really intended to satisfy a fiction.
After all, not all undocumented immigrants come across the desert border.
The same week that Obama signed the bill, U. S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual revealed two important insights at a conference in El Paso. In addition to recapping the horrific number of violent deaths attributed to drug-cartel unrest in Mexico, he said it is stoked by up to $20 billion laundered annually between the two countries.
That suggests much of the crime is really a banking, accounting and finance matter. It suggests the spotlight on some poor people deciding to jump the border to seek work is a misappropriation of attention. But on this side of the border, some rogue minds have blended the concepts, portraying the United States border region in eminent danger, as if a latter-day Pancho Villa was planning a raid on Columbus, N.M., which happened in 1916.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Aug. 9 delivered a letter to Obama when the president arrived in Austin for a fundraiser. Perry warned about a "dire threat" from drug violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. He referred to "mounting evidence of spillover violence."
This comes after several years of "spill-over" claims that have inflamed the nation with an imagery suggesting a border looking like a yesteryear Tombstone and fast-gun lawlessness. Meanwhile, as these claims were being made, the authoritative Congressional Quarterly named, as the nation's second-safest city, El Paso, neighbor to but not the same as Ciudad Juarez, where there is uncontrolled cartel violence.
That was the ambassador's other point. In U.S. border cities, the murder rate is down and so is violent crime generally.
Pascual says there is spillover drug-related violence, "but not in the way stereotypically conceived -- not between cities across the border, but from Mexican border areas to urban centers in both countries."
That contrasts with claims that blend undocumented working people with violence that has proved unsubstantiated. Instead revelations show that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and staff have connections with the privately run prison system that stands to profit from increasing the incarcerated population. A law like, say, rounding up swarthy suspects for deportation would not be bad for business, until a federal judge mostly ruled otherwise.
Customized reality, based on false premises, has too often displaced public-policy thinking based on truth, reason and logic.
Bernie is a scriptwriter. He turns true events into storylines. Only audience believability matters. That and some explosions, a death or two, a man and a woman, a chase, some near misses, and a kiss at the end.
It's entertaining. But it's not reality.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.