Friday, March 27, 2009

Lobos, Coyotes, and Panthers

It is 6:15 in the morning, and I pull up to the military base in Maryland. The guard flags me over to the far left lane and puts his hand in the area to tell me to stop. When my vehicle comes to the full stop, I open all four doors on my car and the hood, so it can be search. As I am doing this, I hear everyone behind me doing the same thing in a timpanic barrage. When my vehicle is ready, I go inside the guard house and show the sergeant with the rifle, my badge and my license. He looks at them and gives them back to me. With my license and badge in hand, I move over to the right wall and lean against it. One by one in a single file line, each entering contractor does the same, until their are 75 people in the room.

Each white contractor in the line moves over to where I am standing, while Hispanic contractors are on the lower left wall, and the four black contractors are on the upper right wall. Inter-esting, I thought, people must congregate with there own ethnicity when stress is induced byarmed guards. I think nothing more of it, and when the outside guard yells, "All clear," I run outto my car and close it up in order to drive to my construction site on base. I arrive at 6:35 am, and I am greeted by Todd and Ethan who work for the company in charge of putting the soil in place. They are gringos or lobo-blancos like myself.

Lobos work at my site while the Hispanic coyotes work at another site on base. The coyotes have all access passes, so they never have to have there car search while the lobos are required to go through the base-gate that searches cars. It is kind of odd that this is the order of base entry since lobos have been born and raised in America, and the coyotes have all immigrated to America. Anyway, at the construction site the segregation is inflicted by Diego, the foreman for the soil placement company. He prefers to speak Spanish, and likes to have Spanish-speaking workers around him on his site,however, that makes an awful lot of work for the three lobos at our site, but this is America and that's the way it goes. I am not complaining mind you, I just see this scenario as odd, and very odd for a workplace on a Military Base.

To make this scenario fully absurd, lobos get extra help when a coyote is disciplined for being late or lazy. Diego sends the incorrigible over to the lobo site for punishment. When the coyote comes into lobo territory, he is forced to speak English, which is sometimes beyond his capabilities as Spanish is beyond the lobo capabilities, however, this is not usually a source of conflict because hand-signals, such as pointing, usually suffice.

As you already know about the coyotes and lobos, there is another ethnic group, African-Americans whom are called panthers. They drive the dump-trucks, for some unknown reason all dumptruck drivers on site belong to this ethnic group. They bring soil from thirty miles away and stopped at the same gate that I do in the morning, and like most Americans born and raised here, their trucks are searched and passed through. Usually, they come in the second entrance to the jobsite, swing around and drop their load, then they exit out of the first entrance to pick up another load. About 15 trucks come in at one time, making it very hard for the three lobos to keep track of them.

So, today, the inevitable happens. A dump-truck collision between two panthers occurs on site. One dump-truck runs into the back of another shearing his right, fiberglass fender off causing a halt to the work. The panther that caused the accident has suffered the most damage, and he is mad, so mad that he calls 911. His call from his cell-phone brings the military fire and rescue as well as the military police.

While he is making his call, the lobo, Ethan, calls Diego at the other site and reports the incident. Diego says that he is coming with the coyotes. The coyotes arrive after the military police, and observe that the panthers are huddled around the panther that they believe to be in the right. They, also, see that the lobos are together on the hill, so they nervously wait by the first entrance. While they wait by the entrance, the military police run around doing their investigation with their pistols strapped to their legs, intimidating everyone with such obvious weaponry. As they delve deeper into the investigation, they realise there is only one witness who has seen the entire accident from start to finish, and they know that witness is the lobo named Ethan.

They approach the hill where we are standing, and Ethan becomes nervous as the panthers and coyotes watch. "What do I do," says Ethan to me. "Tell the truth, don't put more in, than necessary." I say to Ethan. "Okay," He says. "Ethan, because you are the only one who has seen what happen, we are in a bad position." I say. "How so," responds Ethan. "On a lobo's testimony, a panther is going to get justice while another panther receives justice." "I don't think that way." Ethan says. "I didn't think that way until today," I say. And with that, Ethan is handed a paper and is informed by the military police as to what is expected from him by the US government. Ethan walks over to his bulldozer sits in it and starts writing about the incident.

Everyone goes back to work except the two truck drivers in the accident, they sit separately and wait for information, and I begin to think as I work. I think to myself, how do normal, progressive human beings become tribal animals when placed into such stressful situations such as work, accidents, and being encountered by armed police. I wonder even-more about whether the humanistic side or the tribalistic side will win out 40 years from now in the country I know as America.