Monday, September 4, 2017

Good fences don't make good neighbors

Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” is frequently misunderstood as an endorsement of the idea that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Reading that phrase from Frost’s poem in context clearly shows that Frost advocated tearing down rather than constructing walls between neighbors.
Frost wrote, in part:
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.
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 neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  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 offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.'
Historically, walls have failed to accomplish their intended purpose. Illustratively, the Great Wall of China did not keep out the barbarians, the Maginot line built by the French failed to keep out the German panzers in WWII, and the wall that Israel is constructing to keep out Palestinian terrorists has proven ineffectual.
Walls have been most effective when supplemented by the use of force. The Berlin Wall, although supplemented with landmines and machine guns, did not end attempts by East Berliners to cross into West Berlin. In spite of the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) demarcating the border between North and South Korea, ten thousand plus North Koreans have found a means to cross (or bypass) the DMZ and receive sanctuary in South Korea. Escapes even occur from maximum security prisons.
Building a wall along the US border with Mexico will neither stop illegal immigration nor make for good neighbors. A wall, by itself or in combination with other barriers and enforcement methods may make illegal crossings more difficult, but humans excel at solving challenges as the preceding survey of the history of walls showed. Furthermore, reinforcing any wall with automatic weapons, mines, etc., would represent an egregious violation of the Laws of War, moves that are inherently incompatible with Christianity’s dictate to love one’s neighbor, and would still prove ineffectual.
At a minimum, building walls produce hard feelings if not hate and racism. Instead of squandering large sums in a vain attempt to eliminate illegal border crossings, the US should expend those efforts and resources on becoming a better neighbor to Mexico, Latin American, Caribbean, and South America states. Such efforts would target the cause rather than the symptom of illegal migration.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do I have this right? It is America's fault that much of the rest of the world is governed by thugocracies where there are no property rights in one's person or possessions (land). As a result, we should let the world's masses come in and take what they want.

George Clifford said...

Your comment certainly does not express my views. The US is not the cause for "thugocracies" governing much of the world. However, the US has historically welcomed the "poor and huddled masses" who saw no future in their country of origin. Some of why ancestors were among these, coming from Scotland, Germany, and elsewhere. Immigrants typically have more entrepreneurial spirits and drive than do many others. Furthermore, immigrants do not come and take what they want. Indeed, illegal immigrants pay taxes yet receive fewer benefits from those taxes than do legal residents and citizens, e.g., illegal residents rarely receive welfare or healthcare benefits.