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Note to Trump: the only beautiful walls are monuments to failure

April 25, 2017

I love walls. Many of them are beautiful, though not in the way Donald Trump predicts about his wall.

For me, walls that define and protect boundaries are symbols of failure. They are steeped in emotion – hubris, fear and sadness. Think of the famous walls that remind us of those emotions: Hadrian’s Wall, the Land Walls of Constantinople, the Great Wall of China.

All of them failed in their objectives. Hadrian’s successors couldn’t protect Britannia from the encroaching Saxons, let alone the Picts and the Scots to the north. The walls of Constantinople crumbled under the onslaught of the Ottoman cannon. And China’s wall, a landmark five thousand miles long, visible still from space, couldn’t keep out the Mongols.

Yet the bricks are still there for us to admire, as we contemplate the downfall of those who defended them.

Other walls are not so beautiful. The Berlin Wall is mostly gone, but bits remain. Ugly chunks of concrete covered in graffiti, sitting close to the Gestapo cells where so many opponents of the Nazis met their end. Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, the Maginot Line and the Siegfried Line moulder away in rural France and Germany – overrun, circumvented or blasted into pieces. The Israeli wall is still in use, likewise covered in graffiti on the Palestinian side, splitting farms, communities and families. Its time will come as well.

There’s one thing that all these walls have in common. Those who built them didn’t require those from whom they wished to protect themselves to pay for their construction.

Donald Trump dares to be different.

That’s what I find strange about his beautiful wall. It’s easy to understand why he would want a barrier that stops people from entering the United States illegally. He’s worried about unchecked immigration, about drug-runners, about violent crime. Or, to put it another way, a substantial number of those who voted for him are worried, he knew that and he banged the hell out of the immigration drum.

What I don’t get is by what logic he proposes to get Mexico to pay for his wall.

So I googled the search term “why should Mexico pay for the wall?”. Strangely enough, I found very little by way of justification of Trump’s intention. Most of the stuff I found seeks to explain not why Mexico should pay, but how it could be made to pay.

The only piece of any substance questioning the rationale was by Michael Dorf, Professor of Law at Cornell University. In it, he identifies Trump’s tactic of implying collective responsibility on the part of groups he seeks to demonise.

According to The Donald’s narrative, Muslim Americans know who are the terrorists in their midst. They are not shopping them to the police. Ergo they are all responsible for acts of terrorism by Muslims. Mexico “sends” their people to America. Their people run drugs, commit crime and work illegally. Ergo, it’s their fault and they should pay for the wall.

Another point Dorf makes is about the dodgy statistics Trump trotted out during the campaign:

Trump’s various campaign statements about undocumented immigrants and criminals being sent by Mexico across the southern border earned him four Pinnochios from The Washington Post. His focus on illegal immigration ignores the fact that the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States has been stable, not increasing, for the better part of a decade.

Although some undocumented Mexican immigrants do, of course, commit crimes—as do some other immigrants, tourists and citizens—substantial evidence indicates that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the baseline population. In fact, their addition to the population lowers, rather than elevates, crime rates.

Par for the Trumpian course, I should have thought.

Now he’s gone to Congress to get funding for his giant erection. The story has moved from “we’ll build a wall and Mexico will pay for it” to “we’ll pay for the wall and Mexico will pay later – somehow”.

Not surprisingly he’s met resistance, mostly from the Democrats, who are objecting to a number of his budget plans. So the latest tactic is to threaten to de-fund Obamacare. Which is rather like a mugger holding up a little old lady and her dog. Something along the lines of “gimme the money or the pooch gets it”.

Promising to build a wall must have seemed a good idea at the time. Even if it gets built, it’ll be tunnelled under, climbed over or swam round. One way or another, those who run up against a brick wall will find another route into the US. And then, in a decade or so, it will start crumbling because there will be no need for it. The killer drones will be up in the sky the moment some poor migrant sets foot in the country, ready to blast the interloper into eternity. At least that’s the way things seem to be going right now.

By then, Trump will be gone, or he’ll be up in his Tower sucking liquidised chicken nuggets through a straw and staring blankly at Fox News.

And his wall will join all the other defunct walls that still stand – monuments to ego, paranoia, broken dreams and technological redundancy. Some beautiful. Others, like his, ugly.

Will the wall actually be built? Maybe – at least a section long enough for the president to be able to say he’s kept his promise.

But I suspect that come 2020, if he hasn’t been impeached by then, Trump will have learned that walls built to keep people in are far more effective than those that keep them out. So expect in his next campaign a promise to build more beautiful walls. This time they’ll be rectangular, and full of bars. “Round’em up – lock’em up”. That’ll go down well with his supporters, I would imagine.

One more thought. Trump is a bit of a movie buff, or so I’m told. I wonder if he ever watched The Day After Tomorrow, in which a sudden change in climate turns the northern part of the US into an ice shelf overnight. At the end of the movie, after half the population has been frozen to death, Mexico graciously opens its borders to millions of American refugees.

Now wouldn’t you think the president might wish to stay in Mexico’s good books, just in case?

From → History, Politics, UK, USA

  1. Ronnie Spraggs permalink

    The very saddest, and also the very most beautiful walls I’ve ever known in my whole life (And I come from a Land of Walls, and Castles, In Wales) were in Carcassonne in SW France, in The Languedoc, over 25 years ago now. What a gorgeous place. But the scene of total horror, when Simon de Montfort, Christian Saint and 6th Earl of Leicester, and The Catholic Church, decided to embark upon The Albigensian Crusade, to genocidally exterminate The Albigensians, or Cathars — The Heretics of The Languedoc, but still Christians — which they effectively did, in such a savagely, shatteringly cruel way. They often first blinded them with red-hot pokers — whole towns of men, women and children — and then burned alive those entire communities that weren’t for the most part even Albigensians. But that’s the way of death cults my brother. The death cults that still dominate human culture. Sad… But true… And probably inevitable.

  2. Thanks Ronnie. You’re so right.

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