Build That Wall!

I’m a builder by nature. Since childhood I’ve taken pleasure in the act of construction, whether that means building a toy, a family, or a book.

I believe if you build you must also learn—it’s impossible to build a song without playing an instrument, to write a book without reading.

Occasionally there’s a need for the opposite, to break down barriers, tear down walls. Reagan requested it in 1987 and the dream came true.

Walls are built for many reasons, usually good ones. Few animals build them, but all animals understand the need for shelter. Humans are more vulnerable than most, despite our braggadocio—we’re the only species that relies on clothing, central heating, and air conditioning.

And we certainly aren’t the species living in the most extreme conditions on the planet. A tiny spider might live in the corner of your basement, the equivalent of you making your home at a height of three thousand feet and living on a lattice of ropes. There you would sleep, mate, and hunt. You’d even have a pantry.

Once in a while you’d want to build an extension, and rappel five hundred feet down a thread in a second or so, before climbing your way back up. Extreme sports? Mr. Spider chortles.

Now, after the Mexican Wave comes the Mexican Wall. In Dubya’s day there was an aphorism: for every complex problem there’s a simple solution—and it’s usually wrong.

The tragedy of democracy lies in the facile, simple-minded appeal. But if whole populations are educated to the tweet, the ten-second video bite,  the superhero who never cleans up the mess, why are we surprised?

We’re sold on our effortless world… Exercise? Effort. Reading? Effort. Thought? Effort. Writing? God forbid.

The first casualty are the kids. The hate whipped up by the GOP candidate in the US has led to a new set of taunts in the schoolyard. ‘Build that wall!’ has become a popular chant in unlikely places, such as a basketball game in Indiana, where white kids used it on the mainly Latino opposition.

The candidate's policy for the North Korean nuclear program? Or is it a metaphor for the relative size of US challenges and the brain addressing them?

The candidate’s policy for the North Korean nuclear program. Or is it a metaphor for the relative size of US challenges and the brain addressing them?

Bullying will always exist, and the English public school system that trained me had it down to a fine art. In the current environment, where adult role-models hurl insults and supporters sucker-punch opponents, it’s natural that kids will grow into the part.

Small children from minorities are going to school wondering if they’ll be deported tomorrow. They don’t know what the word means, but they’re petrified. There are cases of kids bringing their birth certificates into school to prove they’re American.

The Great Wall of China, or Hadrian’s Wall for that matter, were built to keep out invading armies. Although I don’t think anyone would compare the savagery of the Mongol hordes with the Scottish Picts, the rationale was identical—these were intruders who aimed to kill, rape, and plunder.

The Berlin Wall, on the other hand, was a prison wall—built to confine a repressed people. As stupid in its aims as this new proposition. Did it work? Yes, it worked at increasing suffering, splitting families, and murdering young idealists. And it sold a lot of spy novels.

Will this one work? Will the US become a kind of gated community which will put a stop to immigration? Economic migrants stop coming when living conditions improve back home or if they deteriorate in the US. The story in America is the British story, the German story, even the Portuguese story.

Immigrants work because they’re employed to do the jobs the nationals will not do for that wage. The two keywords are ‘jobs’ and ‘wage’. As long as those four-letter words turn the economic engine there will be immigration, even if you build a wall as high as the moon.

While we’re at it, what’s the difference between people immigrating and jobs emigrating? Isn’t that what Made in China is all about?

But if I claim the wall, like so many other nonsensical solutions, rests on fallacious arguments, the Trump electoral base would probably think I’m talking about a blow job.

None of that matters a whit when compared with the mortal sin of instilling hatred and fear into the souls of little children.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.


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