The recent Presidential election has me practicing the piano again. Bach is especially helpful. I can’t think about politics or 45 (Trump) when I play the piano, and this is a good thing. When my concentration goes awry, which is often, Bach’s symmetry and elegance go out the window, and my playing is a jumble of notes that fly in all directions. The major chords become minors, and the harmonies are lost. It is like fingernails on a blackboard. Even the dog winces.

I have to be grounded and focused to play Bach. It is my centering meditation. These days Bach is my salvation.

Breakfast at el comedor

Yesterday I attended a Green Valley Samaritan meeting at 8 AM, and there were close to one hundred people in attendance. Most had gray hair. All were looking for guidance, phone numbers to call, letters to write, or something tangible to do that would impact the crisis of people crossing our desert trying to reach a loved one.

We heard a report from a Samaritan witness who attends Operation Streamline regularly. Operation Streamline is the court proceeding that attempts to fast-track undocumented migrants through our court system in groups. Migrants have representation by lawyers, and most are encouraged to plead guilty for the crime of crossing into the United States without the proper papers.

The Samaritan told us of a man who explained to the judge that he had been caught by Border Patrol agents somewhere in the desert. He was told to remove his shoes and socks, and was ordered to run across the desert floor barefoot. After a few minutes a Border Patrol agent chased him on an ATV, running him down like a frightened, injured animal. His feet were bloodied. The man told this story to the judge on this shameful day in court. The judge shrugged it off. Things happen.                                                     A teen’s death in the desert

I cannot get this image out of my mind. It is February, and the mornings and evenings often approach freezing. A man is forced to remove his shoes, and run across the thorny, rocky desert floor while a Border Patrol agent has an adrenaline rush and chases him down. The agent can now claim that the migrant was fleeing the scene.

Struggling with how to impact these atrocities that are occurring close to my home, I sit at the piano and mangle another Bach Invention. I focus on my fingers, the music, and try to get my bifocals just right so I can see the notes. I am a privileged white woman playing the piano, trying to shake off the image of a young brown man running barefoot in the desert, hunted down like a deer.

There is something terribly wrong with America today.

Lucy and the medical team

I remember Mr. Trump back in 2015 announcing his candidacy for President of the United States. In his very first speech he labeled the undocumented migrants heading north from Mexico as rapists, thieves and drug smugglers.  He railed that they were raising havoc in our cities and countryside. I was stunned back in 2015 when I heard this, and his tone has not wavered. Why does Trump view Latino immigrants as terrorists, tax evaders, criminals and drains on social service networks?

Sleep does not come easy these days. Each morning I do not want to read the morning headlines, and yet I cannot avert my eyes. It is like driving past an auto accident, not wanting to look, and yet I must take a peek at the carnage. I wait for someone to organize another demonstration. I make phone calls to Congressional Senators and Representatives I have never heard of. I spend way too much time on Facebook reading every news breaking story.

Today I went to el comedor, the Kino Border Initiative aid station that feeds and counsels thousands of migrants each year. The mood is tense; the men and women look tired and hungry. It is forty degrees inside the small shelter, and some of the travelers are shivering.

The staff of life

A few days ago Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos sat at one of the tables at el comedor surrounded by ten microphones and reporters from all over the world. Brought into the US at age fourteen, she was deported to Nogales, Sonora after twenty-one years of life in Arizona. Living in Phoenix raising her family, and trying her best to work and survive, she did not have the proper papers to stay here legally. Lupe obtained a false social security number in order to get a job, and eleven years ago was caught with this fraudulent identification. As part of her probation, she reported to an ICE office each year. She never missed this yearly visit. Without warning she was picked up and deported to Mexico while making her annual check-in to the ICE office. Looking frightened and bewildered, Lupe sat in front of the array of microphones. Her children spoke eloquently about their mother, and her life centered on family and hard work.

I stare at Lupe in the news photos, her face strained, and her eyes wide with distrust and disbelief. Then I study the faces of Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, two of 45’s top national security advisors.

Who are the real criminals here?

US Presidential advisors with frequent communication involving Russian intelligence agents about campaign manipulation and policy matters in Ukraine and Crimea, before Trump is even inaugurated? (not to mention business dealings in Russia)

Or a woman eking out a living in Phoenix?

Peg, Ciccio and Matt keeping the faith at el comedor

Why is it so difficult to carve out an immigration policy that treats people with dignity and respect?

And to be honest, I cannot blame Trump totally for the sweeps of the past 3 weeks. Obama’s immigration policies resulted in 2.4 million deportations of undocumented immigrants during his eight year tenure. Most were “non-criminal.” Just like Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos.

  Packaging the tortillas

Looking over the comedor at the room full of young men, I talk with a migrant and his small son from Honduras. He takes out his cell phone and shows several Samaritans a photo of his slain brother lying on a street in a pool of blood. With a dispassionate face he clicks through the photos on his cell phone. He is fleeing his homeland and faces the same fate as his brother if he returns. His little boy has dark curls and races around the tables chasing after the resident cat. The father is planning to cross into the desert with his young son, seeking safety and work in the USA. The Samaritans are horrified with this plan.

The Honduran is the perfect candidate for political asylum. His brother has been killed in Honduras. This young father cannot return to his home. He has a photo of his murdered brother. He probably knows who killed him. The KBI staff will explain the asylum process to him. Asylum is not without its own perils. Both father and son will most likely spend time in a detention center in the US.  Chances are he will be separated from his son. He is a victim without a voice, caught in the crossfire of the politics of 45.

When all else fails, dance 

Today is Valentine’s Day, and another Samaritan and myself walk around with a pan of homemade cake with pink frosting dotted with sugar sprinkles, and we serve up this confection on napkins to a waiting group. Samaritan friend, Julie, stayed up half the night baking 4 cakes for the migrant travelers that we serve today. The men are delighted with the gift of sugar and frosting, and wolf down the cake with gusto. A couple of guys try to mooch an extra piece.

It feels good serving these Latino men and women, when so often they are the ones serving me—in restaurants, hospitals, as housekeepers, gardeners, nannies, and farm workers.

 Listening to the stories of the travelers’ journey 

Later tonight my husband and I will relish strawberries covered with chocolate on this Valentine’s Day. Probably they were picked by a Mexican farmworker bending over in the fields of Minnesota or Oregon. Possibly this farmworker is here today at el comedor after a deportation due to a minor violation—cruising through a stop sign, or driving without a license. I think about his fingers plucking each strawberry in a field a thousand miles away so I can enjoy this chocolate covered Valentine treat.

Sitting down again at the piano, I take some deep breathes and attempt to play some more Bach. The piece demands my full attention. It is a balm for my addled brain.

Holy Angels High School students tour Tumacacori Mission, home of an early traveler, Padre Kino

Peg Bowden has written a book, A Land of Hard Edges, available in most bookstores in southern Arizona, your local library, or

Please direct comments and thoughts to the “Comments” section of this blog. Peg Bowden can be reached at:

If you wish to receive regular postings to this blog, register in the Announcement List space in the right-hand column, and you are automatically on the email blog list.

The Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans is a non-profit organization; the mission is to prevent deaths in the desert. Information and contributions can be directed to:

Kino Border Initiative directs the activities of the comedor in Nogales, Mexico. The mission is to help create a just, humane immigration policy between the United States and Mexico. The website is:

The Border Community Alliance is an exciting new organization in southern Arizona focusing on the economic, cultural and humanitarian needs of the Arizona borderlands. BCA is now a 501 3(c) nonprofit entity. The website is:

~ by Peg Bowden on February 19, 2017.

25 Responses to “BACH AND 45”

  1. Peggy, Incredible blog. In my opinion, there has to be exceptions to immigration policy. One way is for trump to be a benevolent dictator and develop a path to a pardon for those who deserve to remain in this country while deporting the true criminals. Unfortunately some become criminals because they are not given a chance by the system.

    My family was lucky to immigrate from China one day ahead of the communist takeover.

  2. Maryjoan Picone Heartfelt and eloquent. Thank you Peg. Excellent blog. I’m with you all in spirit until I can come back. We re mobilizing also in CT.
    2 sanctuary cities. My farm town is still safe for migrant workers and I pray for all of you. Solidaridad !! ❤

  3. This is special! It conveys both poignant information and, more subtly, the very heavy impact that information has had on you. Together, quite a strong message! Kudos!

  4. Funny thing, Peg. I have also taken up Bach once again, only for me it is the Well-Tempered Clavier, and a few of the two-part inventions. Keep up the wonderful work.

  5. Dear Peg. I just finished your testimonies in Hard Edges, So many thanks for that precious book that I have been advertising to all and sundry. How to get that into the hands of congresspeople. I also found your blog with all those photos and stories not in the book…even the bio on your family, more on Chuck than on you and George . Of course you figure on some of the photos of the action in the comedor. You bring out so adroitly the contrast of life for us of the mid-America-US and that of the migrants. God bless you and all the Samaritans. Peter

  6. Always good to hear from you, Peg, how things are going–as you say, in these intense times. And are they ever! I marvel at your energy and your perseverance, your creativity, compassion and talent. So much talent! Bach Inventions no less for meditation! I spelled it as Intervention (lol) and had to go back and correct the spelling, though what my muse wrote was actually pretty accurate.
    Not that that particular choice would work for me, but playing the piano and on my harp both help a lot, so I get it and sing praises to you for your wondrous ways of coping! And keep on dancing! Love, Barbara

  7. Peg, there is so much to comment on that I do not know where to begin. I live in Naco and have had many of the same experiences, heard many of the same stories.
    As always, your beautiful writing moves the story along. The details and images capture us. I will carry the image of that man being chased through the desert for many a year. The image of the judge shrugging it off, also.
    I started a real, real response but knew it would soon turn into a full blog and would need photos. Instead, I posted this on the Humanitarian Border Solutions Facebook page, and with your permission would like to (attempt to) reblog it.

  8. Peg-just read your Bach blog and had me crying. I feel that this country is off the rails and all we can do is keep fighting for what is the right thing to do. So touched by what you do every day for these desperate people.

  9. Hi Peg: your post was heartfelt as I would expect. Have thought of you, the Comedor, the people traveling every day. My heart is sick with what is happening. I knew it would be bad, but it is beyond belief. How do men come to such hate & disregard? Love to you & the Samaritans

  10. I’m so glad you’re blogging again, Peg. Keep up the blogging and the music. That gorgeous piano of yours should be put to good use- as should your insightful mind.

  11. Dear, very special Peg,
    Since the US elections, I can’t tell you how often you’ve been in my thoughts. So it was just amazing to receive your blog this morning. Thank you so very much for including me. Be sure that I shall forward it on to like souls in this part of our planet. I feel totally helpless, as I’d love to be able to reach out to all those who must be excruciatingly traumatised by Trump’s heartless and mindless actions. The only tiny gesture of help I can offer seems to be to send constant positive thoughts to you and your wondrous group of like-minded selfless friends.
    Sending my love to you too dear friend.

  12. Hi Peg,
    I love what you are doing and what you wrote! I appreciate what you are doing. Thank you and continue being YOU. If only our politicians could become a little more enlightened.

  13. Your blog brings word images and pictures right up close. It is terribly sad and frustrating. Why are humans so cruel at times??
    I am trying to activate myself too. The organization I like is
    Glad you have your Music to keep you sane. Stay in there for the fight.

  14. Thank you for adding me to your blog list. I appreciate your thoughts and concur with assessment under 45. Those of us in the Samaritan community must find ways to resist but must also, as you are doing with Bach, seek solace in the beauty of nature, art and music.

    Thanks also for your book A Land of Hard Edges, an excellent testament to the power of humanitarian work in our militarized backdoor…Michael

  15. Hi, Peg. I’m glad to see you are posting again. I’ve thought of you and Shura a lot lately. The Donnie claims people are “pouring across” the border, but I thought that flow of humanity had lessened. Hard to ferret out the truth on anything in this wonderful post-factual era we have entered upon. Haven’t talked to Shura in months, but saw her dancing in that one photo you posted. Hope she is well. And I hope you are well, too. Might come down for a day or two and help a bit.

  16. I lived in GV for five years before I moved to Lacy, WA 4 years ago. I met you in Olympia when Genene Kluck (a fellow book club member) hosted you here to speak.

    You are a gifted writer capturing the nightmare that is the political climate here and its impact on migrants simply trying to survive and make a better life. I know some of the people from GV who volunteer so frequently to help either at La Comedor or with the Samaritans.

    Please keep speaking for those without a voice, but also give yourself plenty of time at the piano.

    Sincerely, Carol Ballard

  17. Thanks, Peg, for this email and for your blog – the story of the young man being chased barefoot is horrible. Keep up your vigilance and your compassion: there are better days ahead, and if you don’t persevere, who will?
    All the best, Paul

  18. The part about the judge failing to do anything about the abuses of the border patrol is infuriating. The whole system is immoral, obviously, but what will bring it down ultimately is its failure to meet even its own low standards for humane behavior.

  19. I was told that one of the attorneys promised to “look into it”–that is, the incident of the barefoot migrant being chased down by a Border Patrol agent. The judge, however, “stayed on script” and moved ahead with the courtroom process.

  20. Thank you, Peg, for being at El comedor and sending your posts. I read them with joy and sorrow and love the way immigrants become real through your posts. Carry on, and know we send love and prayers to you all.

  21. A great experience walking thru the years of these posts. Your repeated call for a humane solution rings true but more powerful with these stories. Much to reflect on, yet no easy answers anywhere. I will remember the photos of the shrines to the lost souls. You and Chuck have done wondrous work with your words and images. Tnx.

  22. Thank you for your post, Peg. I so appreciated your book and look forward to more posts. I know what you mean about playing the piano when stressed. I did the same when our children were young. As to Bach, I read a book by a man, a musician, who had a brain event. He not only was helped by the music his wife provided but went on to do music therapy as a volunteer in a trauma unit with amazing results. He used all kinds of music but Bach was tops. I heard him on Minnesota Public Radio and ordered the book. I can’t remember the title right now.

  23. Hi Peg,

    Thank you for sharing your post and I’m glad to see you are back to writing. Reading it brought tears to my eyes. I feel the same way and I appreciate how eloquently you’ve articulated your thoughts, with so much compassion and feeling.

    I hope you are well. Thinking of you and all of our friends on the border.

    In solidarity,


  24. I wanted to thank you for sending your blog. I have a bunch of writing in me that is building up like water behind a dam.

    As I read your piece I kept thinking and feeling for the music. It reminded me of a passage my father once read to me about a piece James Agee wrote about pain and beauty of the human condition of tenant farming in the south akin to listening to Beethoven at full blast with your ear next to the speaker. It’s like trying to find a line in a rapid, somehow somewhere there may be a thread of sanity or hope. A pattern of grace. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Peg dear,

    I’ve read all these messages and feel inadequate to follow on with my own. Listening to you at Samaritan meetings, reading your remarkable blog (and recalling my visits to el comedor) brings Borderlands reality home. Those odd and dangerous people now in government would do well to come to el comedor and meet the real story–not just ranchers and BP. That would be much too risky, of course. Always thanks for your work.

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