The government shut-down and its destructive effect on the lives of our people sent me to doing some research on the “great” walls in human history. To me, the building of the wall on our southern border and using a government shut-down as blackmail are two separate issues. Border security is something we all agree on, but as I read about “walls” they are as ineffective as I imagined them to be.
I took time to do a brief research on three walls: Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall. If our president took some time to research and read he might have a better grasp of the archaic thinking he is involving us in as a country.
Hadrian’s Wall was built about 117 a.d. in England, the western most edge of the Roman Empire. The Emperor Hadrian abandoned continual conquest and expansion in favor of enclosing the Roman empire within clearly marked frontiers. In some provinces the frontier consisted of a road or a river guarded by forts and towers, while in others (including Germany, Africa and Britain) the frontier lines consisted of running barriers. This has been justly labelled overkill, it does seem that the northern British tribes were troublesome. The British tribes did not readily accept Romanisation. They continued to farm the land in their old ways, and probably fought each other. We do not know enough about the tribes and their organization to be certain that they were not perpetually aggressive. Eventually the wall was ineffectual and disappeared from use.
The Great Wall of China, 4,000 miles in length, has had a 2000 year existence. According to historians of China, the wall was originally built to keep out the Mongolian invaders which it did not do. Of note, the wall has been considered farcical and has been despised by most Chinese throughout history. The theory is that only weak dynasties need a wall to protect themselves. During the Second World War the wall was a road to invading China when the Japanese used it to transport soldiers throughout the country. There are only a few depictions of the wall in any of the art work of China. It is not considered of any historic importance.
The Berlin Wall lasted from 1961 to 1989. Its purpose was to stem mass defections from East Berlin and communist rule to the west. There had been a flood of refugees before the wall was constructed with 19,000 people leaving in one month, 30,000 in another time period and on August 12, 1961, over 2,400 people fled to the west. In the years the wall stood, over 140 people died trying to escape Communist rule. It was through diplomacy and the firm dealings of the United States the wall’s usefulness was finally ended.
And now we have The Border Wall. I was recently reading an author who was commenting on its construction. He gave his readers a larger view of history and I liked what I read. He said that no wall will ever ultimately achieve the purpose of keeping people in or out. People have been crossing the southern border for thousands of years north and south. The flow of human migration never ends. People have always been moving from one part of the world to another and within their own continents. It is ridiculous to think that anything will stop this movement. It seems to be embedded within our DNA. The first humans migrated from the Bering Straits all the way to the tip of South America unimpeded. As the Americas were being settled, Native Americans moved freely. Somewhere along the line Western Civilization got the idea you could own the land and fence it and it belonged to you. Nothing belongs to us. These migrations will continue long after we are gone and all fences, walls, and borders will disappear.
If surveillance is needed there are new technologies that can do the job. A fence is an arcane measure of keeping people out. Over 2000 years ago, using the best technology of their time, Chinese rulers thought to keep their empires to themselves. Their own people despised them and said it was a farce to think they could make this happen.
People in our own country are suffering because of this idea of a border wall and that does not include the people massing at the border . We need a comprehensive and humane plan to deal with this problem. Border policy could become our greatest success story in showing what our history and people are really about or it can be our greatest disaster, putting a black mark and highlighting a time in our history for which we will need to make amends. We have enough of those already.