On building walls

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve written a post for this site, and it’s high time I get back to it.

I’m going to take a break from writing about directly local issues, to discuss something with national and global impact: building walls.

The topic of building a wall along the US southern border is once again top of mind in our media, with President Trump proclaiming that construction will begin within “months.” I’m going to set aside the huge logistical and financial problems presented by such an idea (numerous as they are), and talk about the historic implications of “build the wall.”

When I think of walls set up to keep people out (or keep them in, if looked at from the other direction), I’m reminded that we don’t need to go too far back in history to find an example of such a construct. We can look to the Cold War Era, and the Berlin Wall.

My wife and I had the chance to travel to Europe and visit Berlin back in 2005. Already by then, only a small portion of the Berlin Wall still remained. The main remaining section was a piece of concrete, less than a city block wide, and was covered in varied graffiti art. A weathered and broken testament to a failed ideology.

Seeing the Berlin Wall in person at that point, didn’t have much impact. However, the following display did, at least for me.

Near Checkpoint Charlie, there had been a memorial setup. This memorial didn’t honor any soldiers who had manned the Berlin Wall, or any government officials who had overseen either its construction or dismantling. Instead, it honored the victims of the wall.


Approximately 1,000 plain black crosses, set up evenly, with pictures of every person who died trying to cross this wall. I found it to be powerful and moving. The display is no longer there, in fact it came down later in the same year we visited, but you can read more about it here.

I think we need to all ask ourselves, what kind of America do we want to live in? Do we want to still be “the shining city on the hill”, which so many writers, politicians, and presidents have referred to over the decades? Or do we want to become a country that expends hundreds of billions of dollars throwing up barriers that keep those seeking refuge and opportunity out? Do we want our own monument to division and death? Or are there better ways of keeping our country safe, while still remaining a thriving melting pot that the rest of the world looks to?

All Americans, sooner than later, must decide how we want to move forward, and how we want to present ourselves as a country to our neighboring nations.