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From black belt to a badge

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Esther Cepeda
October 17, 2011
— Our society has come to rely on star power to deal with our most intractable problems.

Whether it is sports legends creating awareness of cancer, musicians inspiring young children to excel in school or actors trying to eradicate poverty, there’s nothing quite like the golden glow of celebrity to bring attention to important social issues.


The newest superstar problem-solver is martial arts action movie star Steven Seagal, who was sworn in last week as a deputy of the sheriff's office in Hudspeth County, Texas. The San Antonio Express-News reported that the “Above the Law” star called the department approximately two months ago asking for the job.


Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West told the Express-News that after careful consideration to ensure this wasn’t some sort of publicity stunt, he approved the hiring of Seagal, a seventh-dan blackbelt in the art of Aikido and 20-year trained peace officer. “He's like the rest of us that live down here; he has a sincere passion for his country and he wants to do more to help,” said West.


This news inspires many thoughts. Primarily, “Why wasn't Chuck Norris all over this?”


C’mon, “Walker, Texas Ranger” should have stepped up. After all, it’s rumored that Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kicks are the second leading cause of death worldwide after heart attacks -- most of which were caused by fear of a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick. That’s surely an advantage for dealing with all those scary border runners.


Don’t think I’m trying to diminish Seagal’s prowess -- he, too, is larger than life. Well, he certainly looked larger than life as craggy-faced actor Danny Trejo’s arch nemesis in last year’s campy Mexican-cartel-illegal-immigration flick “Machete.” In that movie Seagal played a sword-wielding Mexican drug lord -- maybe that turn as a baddie contributed to his desire for this new career.


His new official role carries the starting title of “deputy chief to the chief deputy,” which could mean anything, though I fantasize it means “border badass.”


I’m sure some will condemn Seagal's new position as yet another contribution to the glamorous, if not always accurate, portrayal of the U.S.-Mexico border as a stretch of lawless badlands that, if secured, would be the answer to all our immigration-related woes. Others will denounce Seagal as a nativist because there are Internet pictures of him mugging with the infamous illegal-immigrant-hunting Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz.


Not me.


No one knows if Seagal and the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office will end up developing a reality TV show or creating some other type of controversy, so for now we must give Mr. “Hard to Kill” the benefit of the doubt.


Since we routinely put our faith in celebrities' ability to make us aware of and ease society’s ills, we should be thankful that a bona fide tough guy will be helping to secure America’s border. And who better than a movie star desperate enough for real solutions that he's willing to roll up his own sleeves to call attention to the bizarre antics that surround our illegal immigration problem?


Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.



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