Tear Down These Walls

I’m tired of walls, fences, borders, anything that divides us.  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”  There are the historic walls:  the Berlin Wall, the double electrified fence around Auschwitz, Hadrian’s Wall, and the Great Wall of China.  And there are the current walls:  the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the fence around Isreal, and The Fence (between the USA and Mexico.  There is Africa which was divided into countries by the colonial powers using boundaries that frequently made no sense whatsoever; they are just lines on a map that require border crossings.  Historic dividers may be intriguing tourist attractions, but they were rarely useful for their proposed function.  They have become obsolete emblems of civilization’s failures.

Why should persons born on one side of a fence or wall have a totally different set of living circumstances and opportunities than those living on the other side?  And borders are frequently excuses for bad behavior.  Because of a line on a map, Americans want to believe that they are blessed of God, and others less so.  According to Frances Lee Menlove writing in Sunstone (Jun 2013):

We [should] refuse to morph deep gratitude for the Constitution into a claim that America is more beloved of God than other nations.  Toxic ideologies fuel violence.  The claim of American exceptionalism, of America’s divine mission, adds din–maybe even idolatrous din–to the clamor.  This is a rework of an ancient myth that has sent soldiers to their deaths for thousands of years:  “God is on our side, not theirs.”

I came of age in the 1960s.  John Lennon’s Image still has meaning to me:

Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too/Imagine all the people living life in peace

America is preparing to invest additional billions in The Fence.  The 10-year cost includes $25 billion for additional border guards, $3 billion for fencing, and $3.2 billion for other measures.  The project is doomed to failure, and in reality is just a PR stunt to placate political conservatives.

The sad thing is that walls have crept into our beliefs about the hereafter.  For most Christians, there is a heaven and there is a hell:

Imagine there’s no heaven/It’s easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky/Imagine all the people living for today

In Mormonism the walls are even more onerous.  There are 3 heavens and walls to keep individuals from moving from one to the other.  The highest heaven–the Celestial Kingdom–is again divided into three.  I assume in the Celestial Kingdom there are also walls for separation.

I suppose that some walls will always be needed.  For example, to keep cows from moving too freely.  But can’t we at least try to minimize them and not fall for the old cliché:  “Good fences make good neighbors.”

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2 Responses to Tear Down These Walls

  1. rogerdhansen says:

    This blog entry was re-posted on http://www.ieet.org. There, the following comment was made by rmk948:

    It is hard to argue against the free movement of people. The economic benefits of immigration greatly outweigh the costs, and the moral arguments for freedom of movement are very strong.

    To my mind, the only rational arguments against extremely liberal immigration policies are cultural and environmental. Some people are leery about mass immigration because of the alteration of the cultural landscape it will produce.

    The response to this depends on how much one believes that existing residents have a right to expect slow and gradual changes to their cultural milieu. In my mind, this is not a very strong argument. Even great increases in immigration would probably not change our cultural as quickly or as profoundly as economic conditions, technology and internal shifts in tastes and mores will. Consider the vast shift in public attitudes toward LGBT rights that has occurred in the past twenty years. This had virtually nothing to do with immigration.

    Environmental arguments are somewhat stronger. A fascinating Gallup poll in April 2012 http://www.gallup.com/poll/153992/150-million-adults-worldwide-migrate.aspx indicated that about 150 million adults worldwide would move to the United States if they could. Add in minor children and the total number would be staggering.

    The effects on the world environment if these 150+ million people quickly adopted an American lifestyle would be substantial and undeniable. My response would be as follows:

    1) Our present American lifestyle is unsustainable even with our present population. We will have to make drastic changes in the way we live and make them soon, regardless of how many immigrants we admit.

    2) Many potential immigrants live in rapidly industrializing countries such as China. It is hard to say whether they and their descendants would in the long term have bigger environmental impacts in their native countries than in America.

    3) Highly skilled immigrants from countries with few environmental initiatives can be of great importance to our own environmental programs.

    All in all, a good post and one that calls for a lot of thought.

    ——————————————————————————–

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    Yesterday afternoon, I watched the movie “Pacific Rim.” It is a mindless sci-fi action movie about a war between the Kaiju (think Gogzillas) and Jaegers (think transformers). At the start of the flic the Jaegers, who are protecting the earth from the Kaiju, are retired in favor of a wall. And, of course, we know that this plan will fail. (If you’ve read the above post, you know that walls and fences rarely work.) And the Jaegers have to be resurrected to protect the earth. So even sci-fi movies understand that walls are futile.

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