Is building a wall really the best we can do?
SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall," wrote Robert Frost, down-to-earth New England poet.
"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 offense."
I saw the wall that existed between communist East Germany and western Germany, a wall splitting Berlin, separating families from each other, neighbor from neighbor and, most of all, a 24-hour symbol of mistrust and violence. When the wall was finally breached, it reunited a broken people.
Now, as we read this, Israel has erected, huge, obscene walls between itself and its Palestinian neighbors. And not just between them, but right through the middle of some towns, or worse, completely around a town, isolating farmers from their fields, children from their schools, workers from their jobs, neighbors from their friends.
And we, the country that for more than two centuries has proudly invited other countries to "send me your naked and your poor" (as inscribed on the Statue of Liberty) -- we are now building a wall.
Are we so morally bankrupt that we cannot work through a solution in our halls of Congress to map out a reasonable exchange of jobs and workers between growers who need helping hands and impoverished Mexicans who need jobs?
Build a wall? Is that the image we want to have of our country? Like poet Frost, "before I built a wall I'd like to know what I was walling in or walling out." It seems quite possible that the psychological and emotional damage we would be doing to ourselves could eventually far outweigh what we think is a solution to rampant illegal immigration.
Syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman warned that if we built fences, we must also have gates, and he suggested that better than a physical wall is a "tamperproof national ID card for every American" necessary for obtaining a legal job or "access to government services." This is certainly one possible solution.
The walls Robert Frost alluded to were walls built stone by stone, wrested out of rocky fields needed for feeding cattle and growing food for families. Rebuilding this wall took two people, one on each side; replacing the stones was a mutual effort between neighbors, not a punitive monolith of despair and mistrust.
Finally, in Frost's poem, his neighbor reiterates that "good fences make good neighbors," and the poet observes the neighbor "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."
A darkness, indeed, that will bring everlasting shame on this great country of ours if we go through with a plan to wall ourselves off. Let us be very cautious about supporting any plans to build walls between our country and a neighbor. I see no redeeming results from such a move, only mistrust and disaster, paranoia, selfishness and hate. I do not want to live inside such a wall, none of us should have to. Indeed, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."
Judy A. Rantala has lived in Honolulu for 45 years. The quoted poem is "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost.