Why do we build walls?

Our country is being led in a protectionist direction by our current Executive-in-Chief and his advisors. Yes, he is delivering on his promises by building a wall on our southern border with Mexico, and by banning entry to people from 6 Muslim countries. The current Executive Order; excluding Iraq, went into effect this week. One question we can obviously ask is: Will this prevent further terrorist acts against the United States? However, there are more questions that can be asked; e.g. Will we be any safer once these measures are in effect? Just who should we be afraid of? And can we control terrorism within our borders by restricting the inflow of specific immigrants?

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a devastating home-made bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people, and injuring another 600. This was the most significant act of terror within our shores until 911. Why should I mention this in lieu of our current situation? After all, these measures are being taken against people outside our borders, and Mc Veigh was a white American citizen whose motivation was entirely different. Or was it? His expressed intent was to inspire a revolt against the federal government. The reasons for his anger were the A.T.F. attacks against David Kouresh’s compound in Waco, Texas, and the siege at Ruby Ridge which led to the deaths of a U.S.Marshal, and the Perpetrator’s wife and son. These were his stated motives following his arrest and conviction. Surely, something had taken hold of Timothy McVeigh since his military days where he served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War. Then again, he was reprimanded for purchasing and wearing a “White Power” shirt purchased at a Ku Klux Clan rally in response to black soldiers wearing “Black Power” T-shirts around his base. Clearly, Timothy McVeigh had a very polarized view of the world which is shared by many people today.

During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 inaugural address he stated: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” His statement was primarily directed towards the difficult economic times we found ourselves in following The Crash of ’29. Contrast these words with those of President Trump during his inaugural address : “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” All I ask you to do is check your heart after reading each statement. For me, the former has a ring of truth to it while the latter statement seems very foreboding. Just what does the word ‘carnage’ evoke? Webster’s Dictionary defines carnage this way: “The killing of many people.” Yet, when you look at the context in which Mr. Trump uses the word, he is mainly referring to our economy. Certainly this exaggerated use of the word appealed to enough people to place him in the Presidency, but at what cost?

Now, we are going to build walls both literally and figuratively around our country, but just exactly what will this accomplish? I cannot answer this question, but I will put it out there for each and everyone’s examination. All I know is, when we build walls around us to ‘control’ the chaos we perceive to be ‘out there’, we are denying our own humanity by denying the humanity in other parts of the world. The United States is not the first nation to do so. Did not the Romans build Hadrian’s Wall to keep out the Picts? And, of course, there is The Great Wall of China first erected by the Qin Dynasty to ward off the ‘barbarians’ attacking their northern borders. These attempts at controlling the movements of peoples throughout history were done to keep those perceived as a threat at bay. But how did those walls work in staving off the forces of change in those societies? How did they create mutual understanding? As we now know from history’s lessons, walls cannot protect us from the ills of our own society. The Romans were finally overcome not only by competing interests in Europe, but their own decadence. The Chinese Dynasties were convulsed by various invasions; followed by periods of stagnation over the last two millenniums. If holding on to what we have is an effective strategy in meeting the challenges of the Global Economy and Terrorism, we are certainly heading in the right direction. These questions remain to be answered, however… How long can we hold on? Or are we simply afraid of our own shadows? Time will tell.

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