For everyone who thinks that walls are the answer, history disagrees. Do we learn from it, or repeat it?
Donald Trump promised to build a wall separating the US from Mexico.
He swore to protect our nation from criminals and drug dealers flooding our borders and inflicting evil upon our people. Mr. Trump made sure each and every American citizen heard about the impending doom our nation was facing, the dangerous Muslims and Mexicans, and the need to create a safer America.
I will be the first to admit that I never thought he would win. Here in my multi-cultural, university town we the people overwhelmingly voted for the Democratic nominee. I brought my daughters to the voting booths with me and we took pictures standing next to the “VOTE HERE” signs. This was an important election and I wanted them to be a part of Hillary’s victory, not because I am a die-hard Hillary fan, but because I am a die hard human rights fan. I voted for humanity, not just American rights, white rights or Christian rights. I didn’t vote for someone as much as I voted against someone, and I wanted that vote to count for something.
Acceptance, diversity and tolerance are the cornerstones of our community and we hold those values very dear. Our neighbors on both sides of our home are Jewish, our elementary school handbook comes in both English and Korean, and when my daughter has her Muslim friend over for dinner I make sure to not prepare pork. These are my people, my neighbors and my friends and I voted to safeguard them against Mr. Trump’s words or worse. As the polls closed and the results of the 2016 election trickled in, I continued to reminded myself that I couldn’t possibly be the only American out there voting for humanity, equality and civility. Certainly the masses would vote for the nominee who respected people regardless of different gender, race and ethnicity. Others would vote for the global cause, too. Of course some would stick to Mr. Trump’s “Make America white, Christian and rich again” hopes and dreams, but they would never win.
And then they did.
Trump won the electoral college. America bought into his promises hook, line and sinker. As shocked and depressed as I was at the 2016 election turn out, I can’t say that I was overly concerned by Trump’s long list of destructive and dehumanizing ideas and plans. Surely they were just words said to clinch the Presidency. Inauguration Day came and went. The President Elect took office and got down to business, taking steps to turn his political promises into action. My hopes of more bark than bite faded into concern, fear and anger with each passing day, and it has only been a week.
Hasty plans to erect a wall along our southern border have been put into gear. President Trump seems to be making good on this campaign promise of his. He promised the people a free wall and he is bent on delivering. Never-mind the fact that Mexico will have nothing to do with its funding, and many professionals and intellectuals question whether or not Trump’s plans and ideas are even physically feasible. These seemingly major roadblocks don’t matter much and we here in America stand on the brink of joining The “World of Walls.”
Walls are not a universally new concept. Barriers of sorts have been constructed for any number of reasons dating as far back as the construction of Hadrian’s Wall 120 years following the birth of Christ. The offending race at the time: The heathens of Scotland. Hadrian’s wall is ancient history, literally, but there are plenty of current walls serving as more contemporary examples of segregation. The most obvious wall that comes to mind is the Berlin Wall. In 1961 East Germany erected a wall in the dead of night, not to keep humans out of anywhere, but to keep humans in East Germany. They literally built a cage around humans. Thirty years of this gated isolation existed before the wall finally came tumbling down. Today the remnants of The Berlin Wall are seen as an embarrassment to an entire continent, coined The Wall of Shame. Berlin’s mayor Michael Muller recently issued a formal statement pleading with President Trump to rethink his concrete dreams. Here is the official statement made on Berlin’s official website.
Berlin, the city of the division of Europe, the city of freedom of Europe, can not look without comment when a country plans to build a new wall. We Berliners know best how much suffering a division of a whole continent, cemented by barbed wire and wall, has caused. Millions of people have been seized by this division of life. In the end, we, the people, have overcome this division, and it is one of the 20th century’s star-studded hours when, at the Brandenburger Tor, the most important symbol of the division, people conquered the Wall and then removed them piece by piece. The Brandenburg Gate stands for the spirit of freedom!
Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, we can not simply accept it if all our historical experiences are thrown over by those to whom we largely owe our freedom, the Americans. I appeal to the President of the United States not to go this way of foreclosure and exclusion. Wherever such borders still exist today in Korea, in Cyprus, they create unfreedom and suffering. I call to the American President: Think of your predecessor Ronald Reagan. Remember his words: ‘Tear down this wall.’ And so I say: Dear Mr. President, don’t build this wall!
Unfortunately these powerful, raw and emotional words have fallen upon deaf ears. President Trump doesn’t appear deterred in the least by examples of walls all over the world dividing neighbors, friends, and the overall human experience. Walls divide parts of Ireland, they separate Spain and Morocco, and fracture the Holy Land. Wall construction has doubled following 9/11, and currently some 50 major walls stand firm. Very soon we could be number 51.
These constructs all have one thing in common: they don’t really work, at least not in a long term sense. Walls can offer temporary solutions to deeper, complex, and systematic problems, posing as a ridiculously expensive band-aid. Plenty will argue against my stance citing recent barriers that have worked wonders in Europe, keeping masses of refugees from flooding into countries who cannot support the influx of humans. In part this is true, but again it is only true for the time being. The problems and issues that created the mass migrations in the first place are there waiting, right on the other side of those walls. We will be no different.
Desperate times will always call for desperate measures. People in crisis will find a way to safety. These illegals are parents like myself, desperate to remove their children from the danger and turmoil that they were born into. Humans will risk their lives digging, clawing, climbing and swimming to safety.
We can’t ignore the fact that we have some serious issues to address as a nation. I recognize that certain components of illegal immigration must be attended to as does the War on Drugs. Like so many of my fellow Americans, I too feel the need to protect our people in a time of world turmoil. North Korea has a nuke up its butt, ISIS is waging a religious war of epic proportions and Syria is continuing to crumble, its people buried beneath the rubble. The world is scary as hell. So what to do?
I haven’t the foggiest, but this I know:
I don’t want my children thinking that America is the Sun, because it is not. America is one piece to a much larger world puzzle.
I don’t want the wall to be part of my history or my daughters’ history. I don’t want to be the next Berlin, ashamed and regretful thirty years from now.
I don’t want to be a part of The World of Walls, and I hope that as a nation we can come up with more than one hasty, archaic solution.