Walls Are Symbols of Failure

Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Anything built by man, can be destroyed by him.

George S. Patton

A nation’s story can be traced in its art. For many, France is defined by the Eiffel Tower, its steely resilience tamed by precision engineering into a latticework so graceful it defies gravity. Similarly that French immigrant, the Statue of Liberty, symbolizes the promise and power of America. Positioned at America’s gateway with chains at her feet and a light held aloft, she embodies a nation brimming with righteous confidence.

What work of art or engineering defined East Germany? The Berlin Wall.

No one remembers the old Communist bloc for Sputnik or universal health care. What we remember is innocent civilians gunned down as they tried to flee to a better life. Overshadowing every message or intention of the Communist world, the Berlin Wall was honesty in art. At the point where the “People’s Republic” met free people, that system produced gray concrete misery, a monument to oppression that sears the eye. Art is truth.

Losers build walls. For much of Rome’s history the city had no functioning walls. It was defended by its ever-expanding projection of power; military, economic and diplomatic. Its residents scrambled to build walls to forestall defeat as its other modes of power collapsed. Do walls work? Sort of. Walls can buy a little time, a breathing space in which a people can reorganize. However, walls usually fail because they constrain their builders as much as their targets. Once a culture starts pouring its resources into walls, it has little energy for growth. A wall is a symbol of failure.

America lacks a single problem which might be solved with a wall on our border. Donald Trump’s “artistically designed steel slats” are the perfect symbol of our time. Our border crisis is a fantasy conjured out of racist paranoia. We are a nation at the peak of our power, with greater achievements still in sight, in great need of new immigrants to join our efforts. Yet we elected a seething wormtongue who denigrates our accomplishments and lies about our condition. America right now is richer, more powerful, and more envied than any nation in human history and our President wants to wall us in and retreat like a frightened child.

Close the southern border entirely, and we’ll be no closer to affordable health care, good-paying low-skilled jobs, or safer streets. In fact, closing ourselves off will make all of our remaining problems worse while spawning new ones. Trump’s wall is a monument to cowardice, the symbol of a generation too ignorant and narcissistic to bear the burdens of global leadership bequeathed on them by their worthier predecessors. Monstrous, futile, and above all simply stupid, Trump’s signature project is the artwork his bed-wetting followers most deserve. If they succeed in building it, a better generation will tear it down in due time.

There was an age when Republicans believed in America. It’s no accident that this was also a time when men like David Duke and Roy Moore were Democrats and Elizabeth Warren was a Republican. Ronald Reagan dreamed of an open border with Mexico and an earlier generation of Republicans loved it. This isn’t some notion he scribbled down secretly in a journal. It isn’t a quiet longing he muttered to a biographer. Reagan actually said “open the border both ways” on the campaign trail in 1980. He said it the middle of a Republican primary, amid of a national immigration panic over waves of refugees arriving from Vietnam and Cuba.

Reagan, like Republicans of the era, embraced an expansive vision of America, an optimistic and confident understanding of our place in the world. Reagan saw our border as an obstacle limiting the reach of a colossus, not a castle to protect vulnerable cowards. The man who stood at the Berlin Wall and taunted a dictator believed a world with fewer barriers was a world Americans would dominate. That was the Republican Party I joined as soon as I was old enough to vote. That Republican Party is dead and its zombie corpse is wreaking havoc.

At the point on a map where white America meets its brown future, our fears are spawning a wall. The ugliness emerging from the stark beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert is the darkness inside us. For the moment, that darkness is ascendant. Art is truth.

Anything built by man can be destroyed by him. In time, we will build the next American Century over the crushed artifacts of a failed generation. We will not let America descend into a nation of walls.

36 Comments

  1. All the wall is is a political mind trick Roger Stone came up with to get Trump, who has trouble keeping a thought in his head for more than a few minutes, on message! the entire country is being held hostage for a made up story told by a paranoid President about people who have more pigment in their skin than he does!
    NBC is reporting that almost no one who posed a treat was caught crossing the southern border. and even Fox news people, as opposed to the entertainment crowd on Fox, are pushing back on the lies!

    The below from Forbes, not a known leftie publication;-)!

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2019/01/04/where-the-idea-for-donald-trumps-wall-came-from/?fbclid=IwAR2YPgdgHcPi65sp0kC7UDKsWNKKvl9g-hVkKFRI8lRaoAuWvPJmy6t-W1k#7d69072b4415

  2. What if – the networks didn’t cover trump’s bogus base op on the wall tomorrow night? What if they said “no”?

    David Leonhardt has a long piece in this weekend’s NYT about the choice we have about how long trump will be allowed to remain president. The gamble is whether the damage he is doing is worth the gamble to move more quickly than normal prudence dictates. See what you think about his position to “move now.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/opinion/sunday/trump-impeachment.html

    1. I certainly agree that we need to move as quickly as humanly (and politically) possible to remove Dear Leader, but the reality’s that we’re not going to get there without Mueller. He needs to come out showing conclusive evidence that the “president” conspired against the United States in concert with the Russians. He needs to be indicted while in office and Democrats need to follow in quick measure to impeach him in the House, forcing an ungodly amount of political pressure on Senate Republicans.

      Facing the political realities of protecting a known traitor and all the repercussions that that entails in ’20 just might be enough to force them to support conviction in the Senate. And if that doesn’t do it, then nothing will.

      Failing that, we annihilate them to the political winds in 2 years (Biden/O’Rourke 2020!!) while Trump and the Family get fitted for orange jumpsuits or flee the country.

      1. “Facing the political realities of protecting a known traitor and all the repercussions that that entails in ’20 just might be enough to force them to support conviction in the Senate. And if that doesn’t do it, then nothing will. ”

        Ryan, let’s assume the “nothing will” part of your statement happens. Based on that, what leads you to assume there will BE an election in 2020? The puppet tyrant will just call another “national emergency”, this time about how the elections are rigged (before they happen), and suspend them until “we can get to the bottom of this”. The Senate, SCOTUS, DoJ, Homeland, all of them bought and paid for, will go along with this.

        You, and most others, keep on operating under the assumption that democratic institutions and common decency will ensure the U.S. does not fall into tyranny. Hate to break it to you, but that tyranny started the moment mconnell et al decided to steal a SCOTUS pick from Obama.

        And since then, the fascists have only gotten more brazen.

      2. Dins, what else can I say? You’re a presumed conclusion twisting circumstances to fit your view.

        >] “Ryan, let’s assume the “nothing will” part of your statement happens. Based on that, what leads you to assume there will BE an election in 2020? The puppet tyrant will just call another “national emergency”, this time about how the elections are rigged (before they happen), and suspend them until “we can get to the bottom of this”. The Senate, SCOTUS, DoJ, Homeland, all of them bought and paid for, will go along with this.

        Elections are administered by the states, and a president can suspend them about as well as he could suspend the Constitution itself.

        >] “You, and most others, keep on operating under the assumption that democratic institutions and common decency will ensure the U.S. does not fall into tyranny. Hate to break it to you, but that tyranny started the moment mconnell et al decided to steal a SCOTUS pick from Obama.

        I assume nothing of the sort. What I see is a fundamentally weak and incapable man in Donald Trump; riddled by fear and paranoia as the walls close in around him from all directions, and he knows he doesn’t have any way out. Ascendant Democrats in the House are going to bring the full weight of their investigatory powers on the White House, state investigations grind onwards, Trump and his ilk have no strategy whatsoever, and the Mueller Machine grinds with ruthless efficiency towards its conclusion and all that that entails.

        As a quoted “prominent Republican close to Mitch McConnell” was quoted in Vanity Fair saying, the WH is “complete fucking chaos” right now. I agree.

    1. This was great, Fly. Stonekettle’s right, though, too many big words (not to mention too “logical”). I especially like the “wall behind the wall”…Mueller is gonna have to search corporate filings for the trump boys new construction business…oops, they’re all being filed in Russia, or, paid for by Russia…What happened to Mexico? Who’s on first?

    2. I really liked his final statement: “You start building walls, you’re building your own prison.”
      We should start calling this wall Trump’s Maginot Line. Yes, those of his supporters who failed world history won’t understand, but maybe they’ll google it and find out how effective that wall was. Plus once they find out the French did it once, hopefully they’ll reject it. Can’t do anything those elitist snobs do 🙂

  3. Your analogy about the Wall being the art of our times is apt. And you’re right that it’s a symbol that exposes the deeper fears / anxieties / rage of lots of Americans. But I think you gloss over some details:

    1) The Wall =/= border security. Lots of people are against increased immigration (like many Bernie supporters, including me to an extent) but hate the wall, because the wall will be a $20bil boondoggle which will do nothing to actually curb illegal immigration.

    2) Reagan didn’t open up immigration because he wanted to welcome brown people with open arms. Not the guy who blamed black welfare queens in Chicago for white blue collar people losing their jobs. He did it to break the unions and provide corporations with a source of cheap, scared, compliant labor which wouldn’t organize, nor complain about pesky stuff like unsafe workplace conditions or being cheated out of wages.

    For the life of me, I could never understand the “Reagan Democrats” movement. Yes, it was racists moving from the Dems to the Republicans, the final act that was started with Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act. But most Reagan Democrats were blue collar, and Reagan was promising to destroy their unions, bring in immigrants to compete against them for jobs (whichever ones weren’t outsourced first), and cut their social safety nets like medicare and social security. After all, it’s not white collar jobs that are protected by unions or threatened by unskilled labor crossing the southern border. Did they really hate black people so much that they were willing to cut their own nose off?

    Apparently not… IMHO, Trump and The Wall is merely a sign that those Reagan Democrats finally wised up and realized “hey wait a minute, yes the Republicans may hate black people just like I do, but they hate me and my way of life even more”. Republicans may have truly believed that cheap, compliant labor was the key to American multinationals colonizing the world and sending back tribute — sorry — profits, but that’s not the story Republicans sold to blue collar Americans to get their vote. Trump is fulfilling the promise to Reagan Democrats that Reagan dangled to them but never kept.

  4. “America right now is richer, more powerful, and more envied than any nation in human history”….LOL….you might want to fact check that one.

    I would say that Norway with its TRILLION dollar Sovereign fund (200,000 U.S for every man, woman, and child, built from the socialist (gasp) concept that natural resources belong to the citizens of a nation, not multi-national corporations), might have something to say about that.

    The U.S. does NOT lead the world in happiness index of its citizenry, nor is anywhere near the tops in any measurement, other than incarceration rates of its citizenry, military spending, and likely ignorance of global affairs of said citizenry.

    Is it the richest, most powerful nation in history? As a nation, of course.
    Envied??? Um…no.

    Though I accept the concept you are getting at, the weak and frightened build walls, they do have a purpose. And as you said, they do work in the short term and medium term against other nations that don’t have 20th century technology, which is pretty much no one.

    Whether the madman and his enablers tear the country apart is pretty much irrelevant in the longer view of history. We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the American Empire, and seldom do empires end without paroxysms of violence.

    1. And yet, far more immigrants want to come to the US than Norway…

      Dins, I understand what you’re saying. Blind rah-rah’ing about America is stupid. But so is blind pooh-pooh’ing. We are tops in the number of patents issued, number of scientific papers published, number of PhDs granted, number of medical advances, and so forth. A middle class person in the U.S. has a far higher standard of living here than just about anywhere in the world (yes, compared to Europe, middle class people here trade future security e.g. a safety net and higher economic insecurity, for a better life today e.g. a larger house, more material comfort. We can criticize that choice, but American middle class standards of living are not worse than Europeans’. Just different in the way they spend it).

      San Francisco and Boston are the envy of the world as cradles of innovation, to the extent that foreign companies in Europe and Asia are setting up their R&D centers *here* in order to tap our unique environment. Our Universities are second to none in this world. Yes, our high schools may suck, but our colleges take those high schoolers in and turn them into world-class graduates.

      We essentially get the first-round draft picks of the global talent pool *every year*. Imagine how dominant a football team could be if they could do the same. That said, we *do* have to be careful. We’re so used to being the first choice for any bright person who wants to immigrate that we haven’t noticed our advantage is weakening. Right now, people are staying home. That is, more and more bright people in countries like China and India are choosing to stay home rather than immigrate at all. But at least the ones that want to immigrate still choose us. If we don’t shape up, even the ones that are willing to uproot their lives and join a strange new culture, will be choosing other countries. If we’re not careful, there will come a time when we have to *beg* immigrants to come join our country, and/or construct a wall to keep our own citizens from moving out. That’s the real risk, but it hasn’t happened yet.

      1. America, to me, is a country where humanity’s vices and virtues are on more vivid display than anywhere else – and while I don’t believe in a country that could elect someone like Donald Trump as president, I do believe in its potential.

        We a melting pot before the eyes of the world, and the ideal of a future where peoples of all colors, creeds, nationalities, faiths, and differences can come together in one place is one worth fighting for because that is a country that knows no limits; that, as Teddy Roosevelt so aptly coined, relentlessly pursues the “fire of life”, and in doing so embraces the very heart of what humanity should and must be.

      2. And yet, far more immigrants want to come to the US than Norway…

        True
        For a number of reasons –
        Inertia – the USA used to be the best place in the world – and it takes a long time for peoples perceptions to change
        Size – the USA is huge
        Hollywood – the USA does lead the world here

        The big one is “Inertia” the USA was the best place in the world from the 1870’s to the 1980’s
        Even today the USA is still better than over 100 other countries

    2. Well stated Dins. I do not see trump’s wall as the act of a frightened man; rather, that of a man whose need for control is best served by walling off people . By promoting walls on the southern border, he achieves a dual purpose- constraining the influx of brown people he abhors and feeding his homophobic base within. Our borders east and west are protected by vast oceans and our northern border has been neutralized through political power. What left but to morph from president to king?
      Self sufficiency has been assured in the past through America’s economic might and vast investment in defense, undergirded by sufficiently functioning democratic institutions. Under this president, aided and supported by his party, America is being run entirely on his terms , just as he runs his business empire. Who needs the cowardly Congress or anyone who isn’t adoring and compliant? The rule of law is equally under control with the additions of two far right justices to SCOTUS. Thus walls are but a symbol and an artifice to demonstrate that he can do what he wants.

      Except that America is more than a boardroom or personal fiefdom. It remains a Democracy however tenuous as the midterms demonstrated. The effort required to oppose this quasi- dictatorship is huge and depends upon many moving, voluntary disparate parts, whereas trump merely tweets his preference or issues an executive order, letting others worry about its legality and any disruption to normal processes. Trump is about to experience a hostile takeover in his boardroom as the House introduces him to democracys system of checks and balance. Let us hope the democratic process of law and order prevail. After all, history has shown us that walls and levees can be toppled. This man is not above the law.

  5. It’s a good time to remember a little Shelley re the British empire:

    I met a traveller from an antique land,
    Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal, these words appear:
    My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
    Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

  6. Not all of us want that wall. Not even a majority want that. The far right like to shoot their mouths and guns off. But are scared of children and women fleeing death and chaos that our own government had a large hand in creating. If they had the brains God gave a piss ant they would realize walls are easy to get through, over or around. Besides illegal immigration is neutral or negative. The wall is a momument to white supremacy and caters to the fear of losing white dominance. They are wussys of the lowest order. No this is not going to stand. The future goes to the bold and unfearful. Trump and his cohort are losers. They are not the future.

  7. I have a small piece of the Berlin Wall in my living room. You wouldn’t know what it was if I didn’t tell you, but I know it’s authentic, as I chipped it off a big recognizable piece that my brother brought back from Germany. I am still amazed and saddened and disappointed at the people I know who once condemned the Iron Curtain and what it symbolized, but now either support this wall or choose to be silent about it.

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