5.21.2007

Is putting up walls the American Way?

Let’s Build A Wall. It’s The American Way (by Peter Tannen, LIPress - 5.10.07)

"Good fences make good neighbors," Robert Frost wrote. And our fearful leaders in Washington have taken his advice to heart.

They’re planning a 2,000-mile wall between the United States and Mexico to stop immigrants from sneaking across the border. That’ll solve the problem of 12 million or so illegal immigrants already living here, don’t you think?

Their very latest wall-building adventure, however, was planned for Baghdad, to keep Sunnis and Shi’ites apart. But it turns out that the very people the wall was meant to help despised the whole idea, and halted its construction. (For the first time, we got the Sunnis and Shi’ites to agree on something!)

Walls are back in style all over the world—when a government doesn’t know what else to do, it seems, it builds a wall.

The Israelis, for example, are building a wall that snakes around Palestinian towns in the West Bank for more than 350 miles. And if you believe that will ease tensions in the Middle East, I have a bridge to sell you.

Building a wall, of course, is usually the sign of a failed policy.

And our current administration wasn’t paying attention in class when the despised Berlin Wall was eventually torn down by the German people.

However, giving the administration the benefit of the doubt, perhaps building walls is really the only solution to intractable social and political problems—in which case, we ought to seriously consider building walls right here at home:

Walls between Red States and Blue States. Sitting down and talking together will, in my opinion, do absolutely no good. It hasn’t worked in Congress for decades. And visiting states where people violently disagree with your every view can only raise your blood pressure and cause heart palpitations. Besides, why do I have to tolerate people who are completely wrong about almost everything?

Walls between Darwinian evolutionists and creationists. Once a person has decided that the Bible is the one and only final authority on everything in life, including science, is there really anything left to discuss? Walls are the only answer.

Walls between McMansions and public housing. This is already happening (we call them "gated communities"), but since many of the so-called "security guards" at the gates are so lax, a substantial wall would keep the wealthy more appropriately isolated from the poor and the lazy.

A wall between Florida and everyplace else. So many loony things happen in the "Gator Nation" (from nonworking voting systems to out-of-control Spring Breaks to the madness of the Terry Schiavo affair) that the entire peninsula should immediately be walled off for the country’s mental health.

But, when you really think about it, will walls in Texas and Israel and Baghdad make people happier and encourage them to try to resolve their problems together? Or will the walls be the worst possible thing we can do?

Sure, Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors." But, in the same poem, he also wrote, "Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.

Peter Tannen is the recipient of a 2005 National Press Club Award for humor writing.