Wednesday, May 31, 2006



"Good fences make good neighbors"
Mending Wall- Robert Frost- 1915

The poet goes on to say that before he built a wall he would question what he was walling in or walling out and to whom he might give offence. Walls have been a mainstay of civilization and we find them through all of history, erected for what seemed like a very good reason at the time, and all doomed to fall or be breached for what probably seemed like an even better reason. For the most part they were built to keep invading hordes out of one's territory, but in more recent history we have seen walls erected to keep the civilian population in.

I am sure there were walls before the one in Jericho, but that is the first that springs to mind. Joshua and his army supposedly made short work of making those walls "come tumbling down". We had the walls of Troy which were impenetrable to the Greeks until they outsmarted their adversaries with the gift of a great wooden horse. And with that wall story we have the expression, "beware of Greeks bearing gifts." We have The Great Western Wall, Hadrian's Wall, The Great Wall of China, Derry Wall, Korean Wall (demilitarized zone in Korea).

There are famous walls all over the world. Turkey, England, Germany, Russia, Wales, Greece, Iran, France and Switzerland. Most of these were constructed long, long ago, and were not necessarily for defensive purposes, some as pleasing shapes in the landscape, although many would probably be listed in walls as fortifications. and now we have decided to be wall builders. This comes at great expense to the taxpayer, although you can be sure that the Bushes and Gates and Murdochs of this world will not be put out over it. Is this an exercise in futility? Did we not, in fairly recent history, have a President who demanded that a wall be torn down? Down it came but not because Reagan threw down the gauntlet to Gorbachev, but because those on both sides of the wall willed it to come down. Most walls have met a similar fate.

So, will the wall we are building between our country and the country of Mexico really keep those who want to be here out? Someone with a modicum of intelligence, one who has obviously studied the rise and fall of past walls, has said, build a fifty foot wall and someone will build a fifty-one foot ladder. How true, how true. If you cannot scale it, tunnel under it. Can't get around it, go over it! If you cannot get over it, under it or around it, go straight through it! Just like the Berlin Wall, where there is a will there is a way.

We are a country of immigrants. Each and everyone of us has ancestors who started somewhere else. True, most of them came legally and made their way through the hardships of that first winter in Plymouth, survived being transported to the Virginia Colony as a prisoner or awaited their fate at Ellis Island. Some even arrived as brides after any of the wars which were fought overseas.

What most of us will never understand is the desire to be anywhere but where one is at, in the moment. To be living in abject poverty, and to know that just a few miles away lies an area brimming with hope and opportunity has to be an overwhelming siren call. We know it is given the lengths to which some will go to cross that border. The numbers of those who have ended up paying with their lives because they were caught up by unscrupulous human traffickers who took their money and crammed them into the back of an already overcrowded trailer. Or those who think it is fun to go out at night and "hunt" Mexicans in the desert. Those who "lead" some into the desert to simply desert them to the freeing temperatures or the Border Guards.

We think we are building a wall to keep us safe from them, when, in truth, perhaps they are the ones who need the protection from us.

"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, 35
That wants it down.”

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Susan B. Goodwin