Embedded in Robert Frost’s famous poem “Mending Wall,” is a proverb that has been misinterpreted and exploited by Donald Trump to keep as many people of color out of the United States as he can.
“Good fences make good neighbors.”
His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” served as a note-so-subtle dogwhistle to “Make American White Again,” even though from the very beginning, it hasn’t been. Europeans stole the land from First Nation peoples.
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Frost’s poem was a polemic arguing against building fences (walls) that separate us from our neighbors. Opening with the line, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” continues to describe the narrator’s efforts to convince his neighbor not to construct a fence.
Frost quoted the proverb as an ironic ploy to express his deeply-held view that literal and figurative boundaries separate people from one another and from themselves.
The Chinese constructed, repaired, reconstructed, and extended their Great Wall for over 2,000 years. It ultimately reached the length of 3,700 miles by the end of the 17th century. After that it eroded to its current state of decay.
With all the effort and expenditure of resources going into the wall, it never functioned as it was meant; enemies of the great Chinese dynasties found ways of breaching the grand barricade.
Though the Soviets fortified their Berlin Wall with armed guards who shot anyone attempting to scale its heights – in either direction – an estimated 5,000 people, nonetheless, escaped its confinement between its construction in August 1961 to its demolition in early November 1989.
Though the Soviets did not keep detailed records, estimates range from 136 people shot by guards to upwards of 240 killed in shootings, accidental falls, and suicides following failed attempts at escape.
Donald Trump cares nothing about a physical barrier’s effectiveness or cost. He constructed the idea as political bait to rile people up and hook them into supporting him. In this way, he distinguished himself from all the others in the well-stocked pond of Republican presidential contenders.
Though the border with Canada is literally twice the length as that with Mexico, and several suspected and known terrorists infiltrated down from the north, Trump’s total focus has been to stop terrorists and “illegal aliens” from the south.
The current President is well-versed in the notion of walls in all their guises.
Trump’s family’s wealth and privilege walled him off from having to serve in the U.S. military during a mandatory draft. He and his father lost a lawsuit charging them with racial discrimination by locking out people of color from renting apartments in their properties.
Donald Trump, arguably the more prominent of the so-called “birthers,” attempted to wall off President Obama by continually arguing that he was born outside the United States, even well after the President released his official birth certificate.
This, along with his supposed investigations into Mr. Obama’s time spent in Indonesia as a child and inquiries into his African roots on his father’s side, coexist as not-so-veiled xenophobic and racist rants.
Since taking office with his “America First” declaration, Trump has placed a diplomatic concrete wall around the United States by weakening our commitment to NATO allies and pulling out of our treaty obligations with Mexico, Canada, and Iran.
Trump placed the U.S. in a cage by divorcing from the Paris Climate Accords and closing his mind to the reality of climate change.
He continually places access barriers around the Constitution, and particularly the First Amendment’s “free speech” clause, by attacking and restricting the media.
Trump supports impediments to the voting booth like gerrymandering, reducing the number of polling stations in areas with large racial minorities, and limiting days and times for pre-Election Day voting.
If his unqualified support for Republican attempts to repeal and “replace” the Affordable Care Act eventually succeeds, an estimated 30 million lower income people will find themselves surrounded by impenetrable obstacles to quality healthcare.
Trump has dedicated his entire life erecting walls to divide and conquer, to “win” at any cost to his integrity. He has assembled a self-imposed blockade to keep out information.
The only things permeating his self-described “artistically-designed steel slats” of his projected border wall are feelings and conclusions he reaches by gut intuition alone.
Trump’s attempts to construct 15th-century barrier technology will drain valuable resources that could be used for other national infrastructure projects.
The word “bridge,” however, is simply not in Trump’s meager vocabulary.