Published in the Martinsburg Journal, February 26, 2017

"Mr. Trump, tear down this wall!”

What does “again” refer to, as in “Make America Great?” The 1890’s boom

that created Robber Barons and Labor Unions? The 1920’s, after the First

World War, or the Second One twenty years later, with our steel and

aluminum manufacturing? The post-war era, when so many of our fathers

had a chance to buy homes and go to college thanks to government

entitlement programs known as the GI Bill and VA Home Loans? Or when

the Civil Rights Movement cast off the last Jim Crow Laws through

Supreme Court Decisions? Or the 60’s and 70’s, when so many refused to

fight a war in Asia that was based on deceit, or got deferments for sore feet,

or reported for service and became our Vietnam Veterans? Which time in

our history is worth going back to now?


One thing those eras have in common is that we didn’t build a wall to make

us great. Aside from our current barrier in Texas, we haven’t had any need

for a wall, except one: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Now, that’s what you call a Wall. There are names on that granite from

many countries: I see a lot of Spanish names etched on it, along with

Muslim and Arabic names. It’s a sad place, but still beautiful, and rather

than keep people out, it invites them in. It exists because our government

used the Domino Theory to stop people from crossing over a border in

another country far, far away. The irony is that the boundary those people

were trying to cross was the line that divided their own country of Vietnam

into North and South.


Here in the US, we’ve built a lot of barriers of our own. The division

between black and white is so high we can barely climb over it; the glass

ceiling we don’t even know where it starts and ends, but we know it’s there.

We install gates and security systems to keep us safe, but can’t keep out

the polluted air and water we manufacture on a daily basis; the education

system that rewards the children of wealthy parents. Tax laws that allow

corporations to use pension systems based on the success of “Wall” Street

for their workers’ retirement plans; prison cells that incarcerate over two

million inmates, on average, per year. The highest wall of all is expensive

medical care that so many people can’t afford, making injury and illness the

number one cause of personal bankruptcy.


We may not be able to see these barriers, but we know that they exist. It’s

one of the reasons why so many people were angry enough to have voted

for a Billionaire Real Estate Developer who knows how to build Walls. If we

invested as much time, attention and money on enforcing existing laws that

forbid businesses from hiring, and profiting from, undocumented workers in

our slaughterhouses, farm fields and kitchens, we could solve this issue

without any concrete being poured.


So do we need a real wall? Our conflicts are internal, not the cause of an

external invasion of refugees, immigrants, or ‘aliens’. Boxing ourselves in will

not contain our frustration. We need to demolish barriers, not build them.

Trump's wall, unlike The Wall in Washington DC, will not represent a

memorial to sacrifice.


Like the Berlin Wall, it will stand as a monument to failure.