What’s in a Wall?

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I don’t believe in countries — no freedom-loving, people-loving person should — but there’s no denying that countries are what history has foisted on us. No two countries are exactly alike, but all countries share one feature in common: All countries have borders, and those borders have walls.

Jericho had a wall, until it didn’t. The people of Troy erected a huge one some 4,500 years ago, and when Achilles came knocking about a thousand years later, their wall kept the Trojans safe during a 10-year siege; but then Odysseus built a giant, hollow horse, and the people of Troy weren’t safe anymore. The Roman emperor Hadrian built a wall across northern England to keep those pissed-off Picts out, China’s Ming Dynasty began refortifying the Great Wall to defend against the Mongols, and one of the first projects the Pilgrims undertook after founding Plymouth Colony in 1620 was building a makeshift wall to defend themselves against the Wampanoag, whom they were invading.

There are other famous examples of walls, but the point is that wherever a body politic establishes itself, its people immediately — naturally, you might say — take to wall-building. Walls seem to make most people living within the walled-in territory feel protected.

So when the current commander-and-thief ran for the presidency on a promise that he would build a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border and make our neighbors to the south pay for it, I didn’t get as fired up about it as a lot of self-styled liberals at least appeared to be. I didn’t get worked up at all really. Because, anyway, what’s in a wall?

According to the Guardian, many immigrant activists living on the border have asked themselves the same question:

Across the border, activists with Comité Estratégico de Ayuda Humanitaria Tijuana, a group formed to assist migrants, drew similar distinctions between the physical border wall and the actual barriers preventing asylum seekers from entering the US.

‘I don’t think the wall is the threat, per se,’ said Paulina Olvera, who has been working to help Haitian migrants stuck in Tijuana get jobs or enter school. ‘Migrants know that they’re not welcome in the US.’

‘CBP is the real wall,’ added Soraya Vazquez, a human rights lawyer who said migrants attempting to claim asylum have been turned back at the ports of entry by border agents. ‘We’ve had a wall since 1985. For us, there’s no difference.’

The article links to another published by the San Diego Union-Tribune which reports that security for the eight 30-foot-tall wall prototypes being built by the federal government is costing local law enforcement in San Diego more than a million dollars in chain-link fencing, overtime for guard duty, and other defensive measures against the onslaught of protesters that local officials were sure would come. “But,” as the Guardian‘s reporter writes, “no such protests have materialized.”

A ton of money and manpower and time spent on protecting something that doesn’t really need protecting. The protesters aren’t coming, Señor Presidente, just as terrorists aren’t sneaking across the border. With tens of thousands of Border Patrol agents cruising the no man’s land between the United States and Mexico, and tens of millions of dollars in border technology — ground sensors, heat-and-night-vision drones — the border is virtually a wall already. Ain’t no terrorists coming in that way.

Plus the United States has its own, homegrown terrorists to worry about. And they don’t need to do any sneaking around. In fact, they don’t even feel the need to wear hoods anymore.


Featured image: The Great Wall of China, near Jinshanling, Hebei Province

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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