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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walls in History and the Land of the Free and the Brave

Although there's plenty of "tops" lists to be found on the Internet, the idea of listing popular or infamous walls doesn't seem to capture any one's imagination.  I thought about this, especially with the personal experience of visiting the enormous Great Wall in China.  

Why aren't walls listed as popular tourist attractions?  Probably (in my humble opinion) because walls are constructed for typically nefarious purposes.  For example, there's nothing touristy about the ugly and expensive wall dividing the United States from Mexico, built with the intention of keeping illegal immigrants from crossing the border. This unsightly Arizona border wall is a stupid structure and a perfect example of how people who don't take history seriously are doomed to repeat it.

wall is by nature a barrier.  I can't think of a reason why anybody would build a wall, except to create a barrier or to segment something as separate from something else.  It's a vertical structure, usually solid, that defines and sometimes protects an area.

In New England, the colonial saying goes, "Good walls make good neighbors", which makes the concept of a wall oddly picturesque.  In reality, the use of colonial or middle ages walls were to protect one person or tribe from another.  Walls were the colonial equivalent of fences, except, of course, the rocks withstood nature's brutality, while fences corroded.  Therefore, in New England and other places, stone walls have become quaint, when their purpose was not so friendly, at all.  

But, the point is, walls have never been effective barriers. They are expensive and symbolic, but not effective.  

Europeans are still trying to figure out what to do with the remains of Adolf Hitler's Atlantic Wall, the name given to a massive coastal defensive structure built on Hitler's orders, that stretched all the way from Norway, along the Belgium and French coastline, to the Spanish border.  Remnants of the Atlantic Wall are hideous and a constant reminder of the tyrannical Third Reich.  Moreover, the extraordinary cost estimate I found on line was 1.2 million tonnes of steel and the cost in France alone was 3.7 billion Deutschmarks.

We know the Atlantic Wall did absolutely nothing to defend Germany from the Allied invasion, June 6, 1944 of Normandy.

A similar analogy can be made about the ridiculous Berlin Wall, dividing East and West Germany during the Cold War (1947-1991).
In fact, the Berlin Wall created a universal symbol of Western victory over tyranny, especially when the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49, was defeated by the Berlin airlift.  

And so on, with the Great Wall of China.  Extraordinary life was lost at the expense of the Chinese people during the building of China's Great Wall. Yet, today the wall is a congested tourist attraction and symbolic of failed protectionist policies.

So now the Land of the Free and the Brave also has an infamous "border wall", in Arizona.
This Arizona wall is sad.  Furthermore, it's just as hideous as Hitler's Atlantic Wall, the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall, combined.  Moreover, it's separating families who have loved ones on each side, plus, puts at risks thousands of lives of those who circumvent it, to reach the United States, in spite of it.

In addition to being a mean spirited social and political barrier, there's no rational logic among conservative, anti-immigration, right wing nuts, who won't spend ten dollars to fund a Medicaid program for the poor, but don't even ask what the Arizona border wall costs?

Surely, right wing extremists (the RWE-RWE's) remember their idol Ronald Reagan's clarion call about the Berlin Wall: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Today, President Reagan could be speaking to them.  

Let's imagine the ghost of President Reagan crying out, "Sarah Palin, tear down this wall!",  or "Senator Lindsey Graham, tear down this wall!" or "Speaker John Boehner, tear down this wall!".  

It's a terrible embarrassment for the Americans to build a wall dividing the two friendly countries of Mexico and the United States.  Beyond being hideous, expensive to build, and to maintain and ineffective, the wall is just plain wrong.  It's now fourth on history's list of unpopular walls, in line with The Atlantic Wall, the Berlin Wall, and the intention of The Great Wall - and Arizona's will never be a tourist attraction. 

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