Monday, November 9, 2009
Walls As Monuments
Men have always sought to control their environment. It is what any intelligent creature wants to do. From when it was started in 2500 B.C. until over a thousand years later, the Chinese hoped to control their border and protect it from invaders by their "Great Wall". It was a great engineering accomplishment that didn't work.
In more recent times a hollow, "evil empire", trying to conceal its weakness and ultimately trap within its borders its unhappy, unwilling residents dropped an "iron curtain" across Europe in the form of barbed wire fences and most notoriously the Berlin Wall. For years they spent countless dollars policing and maintaining the barriers, which were no match for the ingenuity and determination for freedom of the entrapped and enslaved population. It seemed each week brought a new tale of a successful bid for freedom made by some weary inhabitants from behind the wall.
On this twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, perhaps it is more than fitting to consider not just the final triumph of freedom there, but also the philosophical implications of walls.
Walls show an inability to deal with a problem or a group of problems in a satisfactory way. Walls separate men and ideologies. To build a wall is never a solution. It is in fact a form of defeat. It is recognition that the problem cannot be resolved. The fall of the Berlin Wall is surely cause for celebration by all free men, for it proves that seemingly insurmountable differences can eventually be solved. But while some walls have fallen, others are still being built.
How is it that Americans, who fought so long and hard to have one wall torn down, willingly fight to have another erected? When there is the promise of hope and freedom and a better life, what individual wouldn't want that for his or her family? All of us, as Americans, (except for the very few indigenous peoples who are left) had our families come to America from somewhere else. Are we to now deny the promise of freedom and a better life to others?
Of course not. We just want people to obey the law. We also need to secure our borders. Unfortunately, it is impossible to secure all our borders. Just a Mexican wall alone will run many billions of dollars, and that will not stop people from invading our coasts or coming in through Canada. Nor will it prevent enterprising border runners from tunneling, scaling, or breaking through the barrier at isolated points along the many hundreds of miles of the Mexican-American border. So saying that we can secure our borders is ridiculous to begin with. It just isn't possible. Therefore, we must assume that there are other motives at work beyond national security. There always are, and because illegal immigration is a highly emotive subject, many narrow interest groups use it as a smoke screen to gain an advantage on whatever particular parasitic gain they try to rob from the American taxpayers.
Americans are the most generous people on earth as a nation. I do not believe that we are so selfish as to continue to look across our southern border and allow our Mexican brothers and sisters to be victims of a tragic set of circumstances. Instead of trying to deny access to America, we should all understand that the best hope and promise of America, for ourselves and our posterity, is to export that hope and dream elsewhere. When we help the Mexican people establish a better economy and a better future, we will see fewer people wanting to abandon their homes in search of a better life. When we export the dream of America to Mexico, we will stabilize our border. That is the solution; not some wall; not troops on the border.
Not only do we fail to solve problems by building the Great Mexican Wall, we create a host of new ones. Animals are already suffering due to our foolishness. Furthermore, we are saddling ourselves and our posterity with more debt and more overhead. This wall will need to be constantly maintained and policed, and it will not protect us. Nor will it keep out people who are searching for a better life.
Tear down the wall at the Mexican border. Replace it with an open door policy. Instead of sending troops to guard over the border, send aid to help Mexico become more financially successful. Build economic bridges through cooperative trade and guest worker programs. Get rid of unenforceable drug laws that breed gangs and violence both here and in Mexico. Americans have always been problem solvers, and we should never forget that. Just because a solution is not immediately seen, is no reason to give up trying to solve the problem.
There is one more wall we should visit. Perhaps one reason that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is so moving, is that it sends a powerful message of the price of an inability to deal with a problem in an effectual manner. The fifty-eight thousand young Americans memorialized on that wall in our capital gave their lives fighting for America, and many of us have wondered: Did we do the right thing, the smart thing? Was it worth the loss of all those young lives? The wall symbolizes our inability to solve a problem, as well as memorializing the brave souls who gave their lives for our country.
That wall of names as a memorial is a monument that is just as historic as the Great Wall of China or the Berlin Wall. Those courageous young Americans did not die in vain if we can learn from our mistakes and become more intelligent as a people. Perhaps the greatest victory of the Vietnamese War was a new group consciousness in America that recognizes that our government, and indeed we as a people, can make mistakes. We have to always be alert to that fact, and be careful. We are not infallible. When a national program needs to be re-evaluated, we should not hesitate to do so. We need not proceed blindly down a path that can be changed to our nation's best advantage.
Our border cannot be secured by a wall and armed men, and our future cannot be secured by hoarding America. Export the dream and promise that we are all lucky enough to now enjoy. Do it in Mexico, and wherever else people yearn to be free. Deal with problems in an intelligent way as a society of learned and educated individuals, and never be so selfish as to hoard America to ourselves.
Let us export America around the globe, by supporting freedom and individual rights through the free trade of ideas and commodities. Destiny placed us here to help the world, not to wall ourselves off from it. We will secure our future and protect ourselves best by fulfilling our destiny and helping the world to better itself, while we continue to better ourselves.
America isn't a finished product. Let's make it better by building bridges instead of walls.