In the iconic 1975 thriller JAWS, scientist Matt Hooper tells the corrupt small-town mayor, “You are going to ignore this problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass.” In light of recent events on the Arizona border, that scene looks to have been prophetic; but it is the citizens of Douglas who find themselves surrounded by blood in the water.
Steven Spielberg’s classic film terrified a generation by killing five characters. This week nearly twice that number; nine women and children, were slaughtered by a Mexican drug cartel on the very doorstep of Douglas.
While the mayors of neighboring communities like San Luis and Nogales proactively sought and secured Federal funding to build desperately-needed Port of Entry facilities, the city leaders in Douglas have systematically stonewalled every attempt to improve regional security. Numerous citizens of Douglas, along with leaders in Cochise County, have repeatedly raised valid concerns, backed by strong evidence, regarding the threats posed by an unsecured border and archaic, over-burdened port facilities. But much like Hooper, they have been not only dismissed but actively de-railed by a handful of pivotal bureaucrats who seem to have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Why anyone would choose to cripple our own security is a mystery, but one must consider an old adage: if you can’t be part of the solution, there’s good money to be made prolonging the problem.
Sadly, it was not the mayor in JAWS who found himself served up on the dinner menu; it was the innocent kid on the raft, the woman enjoying a quiet swim. People going about their lives placing their safety in the hands of those elected to look after them. To reach the mayor, the proverbial shark would have to swim past metal detectors and armed security personnel; levels of protection that the rest of us don’t enjoy. We are stuck fending for ourselves out in the open water, where we will likely be alone when the ominous ‘dun dun, dun dun’ cello music starts playing. As horrific as this metaphor might be, I doubt that even a shark could inspire the genuine terror that must have gripped the brave women who sacrificed themselves in a vain attempt to shield those kids from a far more soul-less predator.
Being proven right is no comfort to those who beat the drums of warning. If anything, we are left with a gut sick emptiness at being forced to watch powerless as the shark rose from the depths and did its work. This is not a time for recrimination or meaningless regret; it is a wake-up call to take action; to save the next family. Drug cartel activity on both side of the border has consolidated around Douglas and Agua Prieta, drawn to blood in the water by the ease with which an otherwise increasingly strengthened border can be crossed. Douglas stands as Arizona’s last undefended port of entry and it is time that it follows the blueprint for success proven in San Luis and Nogales. The Federal government has demonstrated a willingness to assist with funding across the rest of the Arizona border; it is time to call for their help in Cochise County. If the city officials in Douglas won’t get out of the way, perhaps it is time they went for a nice long swim in the waters they helped to create.