FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Republican Nativism: Wall-to-Wall Deja Voodoo

From the start of his presidential campaign Donald Trump has hyped his idea of a giant new wall along the Mexican border to keep out undesirables. Because, you know, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump has repeatedly emphasized that: “It’s going to be a real wall. Not a toy wall like we have now.”

Trump’s proposal is not merely a xenophobic waste of billions, it isn’t even original. In 1992, six national election cycles ago, Pat Buchanan, another Republican nativist, campaigned for the GOP presidential nomination with the same idea. Buchanan thought a fence, and maybe a ditch, along the border, would stop the flow of drugs and “illegal aliens” into the United States.

Buchanan was wrong then and Trump is wrong now.

History is littered with walls and fences that failed to serve their intended purposes. East German communists erected the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop the flow of refugees seeking freedom in the West. But daring individuals climbed over, tunneled under and broke through the bricks and barbed wire.

The Berlin Wall became a potent symbol of communist oppression that was used against its creators. President John F. Kennedy took advantage of the wall’s symbolism when he spoke before it in 1963. The Berlin Wall finally crumbled in 1989 as communism itself fell apart.

France tried to hide behind a wall in the 1930s. Still reeling from the First World War, the French feared the Nazi buildup. They constructed the Maginot Line, a string of fortified concrete bunker, protected with machine guns and connected with barbed wire, along their border with Germany.

The French felt secure behind their “impregnable” defenses, but it was a false security. When Adolf Hitler decided to invade, his general simply skirted north around the Maginot Line and attacked France through Holland and Belgium. The French wall proved worse than useless.

Perhaps the best-known barrier of its kind remains the Great Wall of China. Constructed at a great loss of life over many generations, the wall was intended to keep out Mongol hordes and other foreign invaders. Now a tourist attraction, the wall remains a monument to cultural paranoia.

But as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests showed – along with other demonstrations in Hong Kong and Shanghai – the Chinese have already been invaded. Not by troops, but by ideas. Oppression, under tyrannical emperors or Communist Party bureaucrats, stunts human lives. But concepts such as democracy and freedom of speech can nurture an oppressed society. And no wall, however great, can stop the process.

The Great Wall, The Berlin Wall and the Maginot Line failed because they were built to stop ideas – of freedom, conquest or change.

Walls can’t stop ideas. A wall itself is an idea, or rather, an admission that the builder of the wall has run out of ideas. The East Germans had no answer to citizens who wanted freedom. The French refused to confront the Nazi conquest of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. The Chinese tried to remain aloof from the world’s turbulence.

Building a bigger, better wall along the U.S. Border with Mexico would be a futile gesture. That structure would be a tangible admission that we did not have a clue as to how to slow the flow of drugs and immigrints into our country. Mexicans and Central Americans – hungry for work, food and freedom – will not be stopped by a fence, a ditch, a Great Wall or a Maginot Line.

Nor would any physical barrier deter drug smugglers from bringing their products to market in America in trucks or planes or boats, ton after ton, day after day. The demand is too great. The profits are too high. And the risks are acceptable. If Trump or any other would-be U.S. President wants to staunch the flow of drugs, all he or she has to do is change our policy. Legalize and regulate everything. Stop the war. Slap on taxes. Watch the cartels wither and die.

We would erect a new wall on the border not because we thought it would work – deep down, we know it won’t – but because we are frustrated. We would rather do something, even something futile and expensive, than sit by helplessly and watch.

If Trump really wants to “Make American Great Again,” he should advocate spending money, not on a wall, but on education. We should attack the causes of America’s drug demand and Mexican unemployment. If we invested in Mexico, fewer job seekers would head north. We need greater cooperation between the two countries. Instead of building barriers of mistrust between peoples, we should be building bridges of understanding.

More articles by:

James McEnteer’s most recent book is Acting Like It Matters: John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty DepartmentHe lives in Quito, Ecuador.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
The  FBI: Another Worry in the National Security State
Rob Urie
Establishment Politics are for the Rich
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: That’s Neoliberalism for You
Paul Street
Midnight Ramble: A Fascist Rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Joan Roelofs
The Science of Lethality
Joyce Nelson
Buttigieg and McKinsey
Joseph Natoli
Equally Determined: To Impeach/To Support
Charles Pierson
The National Defense Authorization Act Perpetuates the Destruction of Yemen
REZA FIYOUZAT
An Outrageous Proposal: Peace Boats to Iran
Andrew Levine
A Plague on Both Their Houses, Plus a Dozen Poxes on Trump’s
David Rosen
Mortality Rising: Trump and the Death of the “American Dream”
Lee Hall
Donald Trump Jr., Mongolian Sheep Killer
Dave Lindorff
The Perils of Embedded Journalism: ‘Afghan Papers’ Wouldn’t Be Needed If We Had a Real Independent News Media
Brian Cloughley
Human Rights and Humbug in Washington
Stephen Leas
Hungry for a Livable Planet: Why I Occupied Pelosi’s Office for 13 Days
Saad Hafiz
Pakistan Must Face Its Past
Lawrence Davidson
Deteriorating Climates: Home and Abroad
Cal Winslow
The End of the Era: Nineteen Nineteen
Louis Proyect
If Time Magazine Celebrates Greta Thunberg, Why Should We?
Thomas Drake
Kafka Down Under: the Threat to Whistleblowers and Press Freedom in Australia
Thomas Knapp
JEDI Mind Tricks: Amazon Versus the Pentagon and Trump
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s War on the Poor
Michael Welton
Seeing the World Without Shadows: the Enlightenment Dream
Ron Jacobs
The Wind That Shook the Barley: the Politics of the IRA
Rivera Sun
Beyond Changing Light Bulbs: 21 Ways You Can Stop the Climate Crisis
Binoy Kampmark
The Bloomberg Factor: Authoritarianism, Money and US Presidential Politics
Nick Pemberton
Ideology Shall Have No Resurrection
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
What Trump and the GOP Learned From Obama
Ramzy Baroud
‘Elected by Donors’: the University of Cape Town Fails Palestine, Embraces Israel
Cesar Chelala
Unsuccessful U.S. Policy on Cuba Should End
Harry Blain
The Conservatism of Impeachment
Jill Richardson
Standardized Tests are Biased and Unhelpful
Norman Solomon
Will the Democratic Presidential Nomination Be Bought?
Howard Lisnoff
The One Thing That US Leaders Seem to Do Well is Lie
Jeff Cohen
Warren vs. Buttigieg Clash Offers Contrast with Sanders’ Consistency
Mel Gurtov
The Afghanistan Pentagon Papers
Gaither Stewart
Landslide … to Totalitarianism
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
How Blaming Nader in 2000 Paved the Way for Today’s Neo-Fascism
Steve Early
In Re-Run Election: LA Times Journalist Wins Presidency of NewsGuild 
David Swanson
If You’re Not Busy Plotting Nonviolent Revolution for Peace and Climate, You’re Busy Dying
Nicky Reid
Sorry Lefties, Your Impeachment is Bullshit
John Kendall Hawkins
The Terror Report You Weren’t Meant to See
Susan Block
Krampus Trumpus Rumpus
Martin Billheimer
Knight Crawlers
Elliot Sperber
Dollar Store 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail