Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Take: Really, A Wall?

I do not have great memories of places that are walled.

Berlin Wall Exhibit
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
I remember the Berlin Wall! President Ronald Reagan succeeded in ending the Cold War and that brought the wall down. 

Then there was the Kurt Russell movie Escape from New York. A scary movie about a wall keeping criminals in Manhattan and the President crash landing in the middle of the chaos.

Decades ago, when I was in junior high school (this was the time before there were things called middle schools) I remember that in history class (yes, it was history and not social studies) I remember discussions about how the United States was the greatest country on the planet and we were fortunate to have the longest undefended borders. Both the borders with Mexico and Canada were undefended. I believe there were places along the both borders where crossing between countries was as easy as driving across county lines in the United States.

Later, I remember that while stationed in Germany during my Air Force career, one day the family was on a trip to the Maginot Line driving along back roads of Germany and suddenly, we crossed into France. There was not a formal border crossing--that is during the 1990's. It made me a bit uneasy that crossing countries even in the time before the European union could be done so easily. The Maginot Line was a wall of sorts--it failed miserably.

And now, the United States is about to build a wall along the Mexican Border. Walls are designed to keep someone out and others in. That is a simple fact of walls. There are stronger than fences. Robert Frost wrote a poem, Mending Wall, about how walls crumble. The poem is a notional conversation between two neighbors walking the stone wall dividing their property and repairing it. One neighbor wonders why there is a wall at all. 

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
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.

China has the Great Wall, although it is of little practical use now. Cities during medieval times used to be walled. Castles and Keeps were walled to prevent the roaming hordes from stealing in.

What are we walling in or out? Are we sure?

Have we lost the American Dream and should we now retire the Statue of Liberty that great monument dedicated to the inclusiveness of America?

Mending Wall begins:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
And that is My Take. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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