Tear down this wall!

The border between Arizona and Mexico at the town of Nogales in this July 28, 2010 photo.  AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON

Thirty years ago President Ronald Reagan called upon the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall”.  He was, of course, referring to the Berlin Wall which had divided West and East Berlin for almost a quarter of a century.

Now we are hearing President Trump boast and brag about building a wall between the United States and Mexico.  A big one, a high one (in Trump language, the biggest, the highest).   What will that wall do?  It will protect our borders, keep out the slime, the terrorists, the drug dealers, the people swarming over the border to take American jobs.

And not only will there be a wall, but Mexico will pay for it!

Just one thing,  a small detail  which you might not know if you haven’t visited the area:  there’s already a wall.

But before going into that,  a personal reflection:   Part of my family lives in Tucson, Arizona.  For years, every Christmas we would jump in a car and drive south to Nogales, Arizona, then cross over to Nogales, Mexico on the other side of the border.   I don’t know who started it but we all loved that trip which became a ritual. We couldn’t go to Tucson without going to Nogales. We would try out our awful Spanish, amble around  the colourful market,  buy  Mexican Christmas tree decorations and Mexican handiwork to offer as gifts , savor spicy enchiladas or tacos for lunch and drink a couple of Margaritas before piling back into the car and driving back through the desert north to Tucson.  We were hardly alone – that place was jumping with gringos like us down there for the day. The Mexicans were happy because we bought their stuff and we were happy because we bought it.  What’s not to like?

In the first years we went there, a chain link separated the two countries. We barely noticed it. Then one year we went on our usual outing and from a distance espied  a  high,  rusty-looking metal fence. It was unsightly and offensive; it divided the two Nogales’s in two as definitively and repulsively as the chain link never had.   We had to park the car, then stand in a long line of people to get our papers checked before we were allowed to enter Mexico.  It made our excursion a lot less fun. Come to think of it, I’ve never returned to Nogales since.

Well, if it was less fun for we Americans who wanted to get in, you can only imagine what it was for those Mexicans who, for whatever reason, wanted to get out.   We headed back in our comfortable air conditioned car while they left everything behind, climbed or circumvented the wall and with only their feet to propel them, started on  a perilous adventure. You have to be brave or desperate to embark on a journey across forbidding land under a blazing sun with the risk of running out of water or getting arrested by the border police who are there in droves.  Many times as we traveled on the Tucson-Nogales road, I would look out the car window at that dry and desolate and beautiful desert and think of all those Mexicans crossing it.  Many made it; many didn’t. (The U.S. Border Patrol has found 6000 human remains, a figure not often mentioned in all the talk about the border).

The wall, Mr. Trump, is already there in many places along the border.  Why build more walls, higher walls?   Walls are ugly, divisive and basically useless, the concrete manifestation of a nasty mind set.

No, Mr. Trump: don’t build more walls.  Tear down this wall!


15 thoughts on “Tear down this wall!”

  1. Thanks for this personal and inspiring account. I completely agree with you. Walls are useless and encourage conflict, hatred and isolation. Another one that could be mentioned is the wall between Israel and Palestinian lands. It has the same effect and is also encouraged by Trump in his support for more Israeli settlements to be built on occupied territory. Look at what happened to Hadrian’s Wall!

  2. Bette Barrett Helms

    Well said Harriet! We lived in the Phoenix area for 21 years and took many trips to Mexico for shopping and scuba diving. We always enjoyed our time and the people in Mexico. I am against any kind of wall. With the exception of the old wire fence.

  3. Not to mention that a wall is not effective. Drug lords don’t bother with this crap–ever heard of airplanes?
    And if he builds a ten- foot wall, someone will come up with an eleven-foot ladder. You don’t have to have a PhD in breathing to figure that out. Most of all, it’s indicative of Trump’s stance, one that considers the entire world as the enemy, “ripping us off”. Robert Frost, whom I respect, whereas I cannot respect Donald Trump, said, in his famous poem, “The Mending Wall”, “Something there is that does not love a wall.” Probably humanity.
    I have a friend who lives in Arizona, just across the border. People trying to escape to a better life run through her back yard every night, and she leaves sandwiches out for them before she goes to bed. I think I’ll send her some money.

    1. Isn’t it sad to think of these poor people scampering through backyards? Send her money – she’ll have a lot of sandwiches to make in the next four years….

  4. I, too, live in Arizona. Something has got to be done and this is only the first step. Maybe eventually this “wall” can be a border crossing where people are denied entry, but until then the wall must go up. We have too many illegals in our country.

    1. I guess people are divided into “for walls” or against them. I personally think that there are other ways of weeding out the criminal elements of society. I suppose that once all those walls are up, we’ll see if they are effective or not. Appreciate your writing even if we don’t share the same point of view.

  5. Does your sister Miriam live in AZ? My brother graduated from high school with her and lives in AZ. He asked me to ask you where, He will look her up.

    1. Yes, Miriam lives in Tucson. Her married name is Trangsrud. If he doesn’t find her, contact me again and I’ll give you her address by private email.

  6. Poetry for the Resistance

    Mending Wall

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    There where it is we do not need the wall:
    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    “Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

    1. This is one of my favorite poems and thank you so much for sending it to share with the readers of this blog.
      I thought of it as I read about Trump’s insane extension of already the already existing wall running across parts of our southern border. Perhaps someone should send it to him but since he doesn’t read (books or magazines or newspapers), it won’t do much good! Harriet

  7. It is disheartening, that we as humans, have not learned anything in the past 100 years. No matter if you call it a wall or a fence they have never worked to resolve any problems. It is unfortunate that I have to live in a country with this mentality and there is very little that I can do about it except vote my conscious or move to another country. To abandon a country in as much trouble as the United States is in, would make me a coward. We can only hope that these people who are allowing this to happen will have some kind of awakening.

    1. Thanks for your response. It really comes down to that famous line in Robert Frost’s poem that a reader sent me in these comments: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”. Walls solve nothing. Here’s hoping that the awakening you hope for will come about, and soon. Resist!

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