There was a time when Americans thought of walls as primitive, crude, symbolic of a backyard nation. The Berlin Wall was the most notorious in modern times, built during the Cold War not so much to keep people out as to prevent residents of East Berlin from fleeing to freedom in the West.

OPINION

Israel recently built a wall to protect itself from terrorist attacks by Palestinians, but I’ve never had the impression that people elsewhere thought of that as an enlightened way of dealing with its problems.

The Great Wall of China is viewed as an architectural marvel, but does it really symbolize a culture that modern societies would consider emulating? Did it even fulfill its purpose of protecting that nation from foreign invaders?

Despite all the negative connotations, here we are preparing to build the Great Wall of Trump at a projected cost of billions of dollars.

The president promised The Wall when he ran for office, just as Barack Obama vowed to provide health insurance for those who did not have it when he ran for the White House. For those who claim all campaign promises are empty, there is proof that you are wrong.

But we would do well to remember that walls are built not of brick and mortar but of fear.

The fear here is that Mexican immigrants are invading, taking jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed U.S. citizens.

I’m not convinced that’s true. It seems to me there are still plenty of jobs available for natural- born Americans willing to wash dishes, cut grass, clean toilets or scrub floors for less than minimum wage.

Of course, there are many illegal immigrants who own their own businesses. Ambitious people who used their intelligence and initiative to carve out a place in the great marketplace that is America, employing and training others who may one day do the same.

I don’t think we’re building a wall to keep those people out.

No, what we fear are the drug dealers, the rapists and the criminals. Donald Trump said as much when he ran for office.

He apparently believes these are the very people who voted for his political opponent. Trump has said millions of these people cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, denying him his legitimate right to a majority of the popular vote.

As for all those drug dealers, a thoughtful person might wonder how that market has continued to exist and grow despite our country’s best efforts to prevent it, providing billions of dollars to criminals in foreign countries, corrupting governments throughout the world and causing carnage here at home.

People who believe building a wall will keep drugs out must not believe in the power of the marketplace. And the greatest marketplace in the world for illegal drugs is the United States.

In 50 years our country has gone from a unified vision of space travel to a national goal of building a giant wall.  Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words appear on the Statue of Liberty inviting “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free” to our shores, had a different vision of America than the one we embrace today.

Esther Schor, a Princeton English professor who wrote a book about Lazarus, told the New York Times that Lazarus was inspired to write those words by her own failure to raise money to benefit Russian-Jewish refugees in 1881-82.

Instead of giving into the darkness of pessimism, she lit a torch of hope in the New World. To Lazarus,  Schor told the Times, “the statue was a special kind of mother – a mother of exiles – a mother whose mission is not to reproduce herself, but rather to adopt the abandoned, the orphaned, the persecuted.”

Once our young nation, the wretched refuse of the world, embraced that ideal.

Today that hope has turned to fear made concrete in the form of The Great Trump Wall.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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