Robert Frost said it best.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.
Good fences might make good neighbors, but walls signify more impenetrable barriers–barriers to understanding, to friendship, to growth.
Which brings me, of course, to Trump’s threat Tuesday to shut down parts of the government if he doesn’t get the money he’s demanding to build his “big, beautiful wall.”
Forget, for the moment, that Trump repeatedly promised he would make Mexico pay for his wall. (I don’t know who was dumber–Trump for promising something that any sentient being would know wasn’t going to happen, or the presumably non-sentient voters who believed him.)
Forget, too, the inescapable consequences of Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants and the urgent need to wall the dark-skinned ones out–the damage to America’s standing in the world community, and the even graver damage to the stories we tell ourselves about the promise of America and the American Dream.
And be sure to ignore the extent of environmental damage that would be caused if a wall were actually to be constructed along America’s southern border.
Instead, put yourself in the shoes of those who agree with our delusional President. Tell yourself that you accept the importance of a wall to the achievement of what he calls “border security.”
Then ask yourself how a twenty- five-billion-dollar wall would contribute to “border security.”
It isn’t just that tall ladders are widely available, or that enterprising refugees might dig tunnels. It’s that a majority of the people who are in the United States illegally flew in and overstayed an initially proper visa. That method of entry is unlikely to be affected by a wall, to put it mildly.
(There is, to be fair, the possibility that construction of Trump’s wall would dampen enthusiasm for migrating here, by acting as a signal that this is no longer a country worth coming to. But the number that would be so deterred is highly speculative…)
That’s not to say that construction of a border wall wouldn’t have an effect. It might not keep determined immigrants out, but it would be a powerful symbol of America’s retreat–not just from much of the rest of the world, but from who we are. It would symbolize rejection of values we may not always have lived up to, but have persistently worked toward. It would be a lasting symbol of small-mindedness, of fearfulness.
It would send the world a signal that the high-minded experiment that was the United States had ignominiously failed.