Robert Frost, Mending Wall
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.
I claim no special expertise on the subject of immigration. But a few things seem obvious to me. And one of the most obvious is that we will never succeed in keeping Mexican nationals out of the United States by building a wall (or more euphemistically a fence), whether it’s a wall created out of concrete, metal and barbed wire as proposed in the legislation just passed by the Senate, or one based upon deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops as proposed by George W. Bush in his prime time media event.
It won’t work.
Desperate people will still find ways to smuggle themselves into this country. Sure, we might slow down the rate of illegal entry a bit, but a trickle fills up a lake just as surely as a gush, it simply takes a little longer.
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.
Politically inspired walls never work anyway. The Berlin Wall walled in the people of East Germany, sure enough, but it also walled in the rot. The large wall Israel is building along its self-declared “border” with the Palestinians may succeed in walling out a few suicide bombers, for a time, but it will wall in another generation of mutual hatred, creating thousands of new potential bombers some of whom eventually will find a way to reach the target, perhaps with much more powerful bombs than are used today.
Even the Great Wall of China proved ineffective in keeping the unwanted out.
Walls don’t work; they never have.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
And what kind of a nation will we be when we build walls and post troops to keep out the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Do we really believe that America can be at the same time both a beacon of liberty and a gated community?
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
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’.
No, we can’t wall out Mexico. But we also can’t realistically allow limitless entry into the United States. So it’s a quandary. And as tends to be true with quandaries, the easiest sounding answer probably isn’t the best one.
Like building a wall.
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 offence.
The long term solution seems obvious enough: Mexico needs to join the United States and Canada as a strong economic partner, the kind of country people won’t want to flee. As to that much, the free traders are right — though, it seems equally obvious to me that they have been right about little else.
But surely we can do better — find a way to have free trade that’s also fair trade, and open markets that help to lift up more than just the wealthy few.
Surely we can do better than building walls.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
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~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
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