Something There Is That Doesn’t Love A Wall

Robert Frost said it best.

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.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

Good fences might make good neighbors, but walls signify more impenetrable barriers–barriers to understanding, to friendship, to growth.

Which brings me, of course, to Trump’s threat Tuesday to shut down parts of the government if he doesn’t get the money he’s demanding to build his “big, beautiful wall.”

Forget, for the moment, that Trump repeatedly promised he would make Mexico pay for his wall. (I don’t know who was dumber–Trump for promising something that any sentient being would know wasn’t going to happen, or the presumably non-sentient voters who believed him.)

Forget, too, the inescapable consequences of Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants and the urgent need to wall the dark-skinned ones out–the damage to America’s standing in the world community, and the even graver damage to the stories we tell ourselves about the promise of America and the American Dream.

And be sure to ignore the extent of environmental damage that would be caused if a wall were actually  to be constructed along America’s southern border.

Instead, put yourself in the shoes of those who agree with our delusional President. Tell yourself that you accept the importance of a wall to the achievement of what he calls “border security.”

Then ask yourself how a twenty- five-billion-dollar wall would contribute to “border security.”

It isn’t just that tall ladders are widely available, or that enterprising refugees might dig tunnels. It’s that a majority of the people who are in the United States illegally flew in and overstayed an initially proper visa. That method of entry is unlikely to be affected by a wall, to put it mildly.

(There is, to be fair, the possibility that construction of Trump’s wall  would dampen enthusiasm for migrating here, by acting as a signal that this is no longer a country worth coming to. But the number that would be so deterred is highly speculative…)

That’s not to say that construction of a border wall wouldn’t have an effect. It might not keep determined immigrants out, but it would be a powerful symbol of America’s retreat–not just from much of the rest of the world, but from who we are. It would symbolize rejection of values we may not always have lived up to, but have persistently worked toward. It would be a lasting symbol of small-mindedness, of fearfulness.

It would send the world a signal that the high-minded experiment that was the United States had ignominiously failed.


  1. “And to whom I was like to give offence.”

    To me; that line is, and has been since Trump first began his wall empty promises and rants, the most important issue to be considered. As Americans; we should all be offended by the thought of a wall along any of our borders…and there are more than the southern border around this country. Of course; having watched Trump’s business scams and sexual activities in the news for 40 years or so, everything about him is offensive.

    “That’s not to say that construction of a border wall wouldn’t have an effect. It might not keep determined immigrants out, but it would be a powerful symbol of America’s retreat–not just from much of the rest of the world, but from who we are. It would symbolize rejection of values we may not always have lived up to, but have persistently worked toward. It would be a lasting symbol of small-mindedness, of fearfulness.”

    Giving in to Trump’s threatened wall ransom would also be a powerful symbol of our weakness under the control of the wealthy few and Citizens United; it would symbolize the selling of America to one man’s delusional threats of murder and mayhem from a poverty ridden country which has never threatened us. Trump is a verbal and emotional bully whose lies keep him in front of the media 24/7. In the words of William Shakespeare; his rants are “A tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I watched Nancy Pelosi wrestle him verbally to the mat and Chuck Schumer struggle not to laugh at the spectacle with Pence sitting mute and unmoving as an onlooker. That meeting signifies the general condition of this government today. Trump’s wall of words is beginning to crumble.

  2. The sidebar conversation yesterday was very interesting. Honest theologians and historians are hard to come by because honesty has a price in a land ruled by Plutarchs. They want future generations to believe they were benevolent even while they were the ones penning racism onto paper.

    I am waiting for the honest discussion about guns and violence in the USA when speaking about a wall at our Southern border. Trump and Pence keep saying that Americans want to be protected from all the violent people coming across the border. Yet, how many mass shootings have been carried out by Mexicans or Central Americans with assault rifles?

    The meeting with Trump, Schumer and Pelosi was a publicity stunt. Do you honestly think that any of those people would care if part of the government were to close down?

    It’s intermission now, but there will be upcoming Act II shortly.

    Also, five democrats voted with republicans to keep supporting the genocide in Yemen. Immediately after the vote, calls were made to offer up primary challengers to those men.

    The politicians on stage in Washington need to distract from the yellow vests in France. The Plutarchs in the USA are getting nervous so they order our media to distract. They don’t want the proles to get any ideas.

    You know, like teachers in Indiana walking out en masse. 😉

  3. All should consider that a wall built today to keep people out is the same wall that tomorrow will be used to keep people in.

  4. Todd: “The meeting with Trump, Schumer and Pelosi was a publicity stunt. Do you honestly think that any of those people would care if part of the government were to close down?” I cannot believe Pelosi and Schumer were accomplices (at least the Speaker is quoted as saying she wanted private meeting), nor that the Speaker and Leader don’t care about a government shut down (maybe Schumer less than Pelosi). That’s a terrible indictment and is cynicism beyond belief. Beyond the set up by Trump to intimidate the 2 is a puzzlement to me; does Pence have any influence on the President or is he completely useless in governing?

  5. A civics question: How, exactly, can the President unilaterally shut down the government if Congress approves the needed spending? We do not (yet?) live in an autarchy where an a Divine God-King unilaterally makes all governmental decisions and operates the government solely as an extension of his own whims.

    The only two obvious ways I can see that Trump can act on his spiteful threat are (1) refuse to administer a budget allocated by Congress, which is such blatant dereliction of his Constitutional duty that I hope even the Republicans in Congress would see it as an impeachable offense, or (2) veto the spending/budget bills that fund government operations, in which case I’d hope that the Congress would stand up on its own two legs to defend its own power, ignore partisan bickering, and override the veto, giving Mr. Trump the options of either sulkily complying with the Congress’s budget or openly refusing to perform the duties of his office.

  6. Sheila,

    “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall” was the title of Gene Tempel’s Last Lecture in October of 2018. He applied the theme to the walls thrown up inside and between universities. We have a political system that is now nothing but walls, creating overwhelming nationalism and within that, division to lowest common denominators to the point where we will be able to neither decide on, or take, any rational action. My view is that the system will have to self-destruct in order to build something new and more stable without walls that allows our nation to fulfill its potential. Let’s hope that this process begins with the repudiation of the Trumpists and their replacement by people of reason.

  7. Interestingly, most people use only one line from the Robert Frost poem that Sheila has quoted today: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Just one line, taken out of context, completely changes what Frost was trying to say in “Mending Wall.” If you want to know how to overcome fake news, my advice is to look for the context in everything.

  8. The wall theater is merely the most obvious manifestation of Trump’s insanity. His legal problems mount daily while the Republican “base” loves him to the tune of 75%+. Did you listen to Orrin Hatch, Rand Paul and Kevin McCarthy orate about Trump’s illegal campaign finance violations? Their preposterous arrogance shows us all how damaged our politics are. These assholes, and presumably the other Republicans in that 75% think that laws don’t apply to them. McCarthy even said that if campaign finance laws were strictly enforced, half of Congress would be in jail. I guess Citizens United’s gold card for corruption wasn’t enough for these pathetic wretches Republican voters put in office.

    Nobody has mentioned that our border with Canada is wide open. No walls there. Why hasn’t anyone asked Trump about that? As stated above, most illegal immigrants fly into our beloved country. Trump’s wall is, of course, the crassest kind of political theater. He even lies about parts of it being built.

    The Trump true believers are the real problem in this country. They tend to produce the mass shooters too. Until Trump and Republicanism is defeated – one way or another – we will continue on the slope to our own, self-induced destruction as a democratic republic.

  9. Every wall fails, every wall falls… ! Time is the master of all and none may withstand it. Let him try as he might, and his ‘followers’ howl… Ignorance is no match for wisdom – I trust that it is only a matter of time.
    P.S. Humanity as a whole has a lot of Karma coming around for what we have done to the Earth.
    As Malachi so deftly put it: “I will destroy those that have destroyed the Earth”…

  10. Sheila, Your considerations on Trump’s wall today must make sense to everyone and anyone who can read. If this message could be broadcast to the country…TV, radio, and printed in every newspaper, I think it’s strong enough to make even Trump’s base re think the sanity of this absurd idea. You need a talk show! You are a star!

  11. Life is confusing. Ronald Reagan challenged Mr. Gorbachev: “Tear that wall down.” Donald Trump challenged the Mexicans and Democrats: “Put that wall up.” Fishermen are yelling: “We want more wall-eyed pike.” And Mike Pence is dozing off while his boss is making stupid comments about walls to two prominent Democrats. Mercy, mercy!

  12. All of Trump’s troubles are coming home to roost and the littlest dictator is now in full retreat the only way that he knows how, appealing to his disappearing base. The Whitehouse will be in full chaos as all of his words come back to bite him.

    The biggest danger now is a country out of anyone’s control. Like the “yellow vests” show France and the Brexit debacle shows Great Britain there are consequences to chaos which happen on their own and soon there’s nothing that can be done. They have minds of their own.

    I thought that Pelosi’s deal with House Democrats to exchange votes for her for a limit on how long before she’s done was a well considered strategy of first things first. Right now restoring civil servants to government is the most important challenge. We will get along with a headless Executive Branch for awhile as the “deep state”, the professionals who have jobs to do, maintain the necessary order.

    I personally don’t see that it will be possible to avoid the Trump depression in 2019 and for that reason alone we need to continue to do what the DNC has signaled is their plan, a managed transition back to functional govervenment before any real new direction can be considered.

    We are in dangerous waters and it’s no time to be losing control.

  13. To me, the focus is on the wrong thing here. It isn’t about border security — we have it. It isn’t about doing right by the American people. The topic is solely red meat to his delusional base who he must keep whipped into a frenzy lest they calm down and see the emperor has no clothes. Fortunately, his base seems to be dwindling in ever increasing numbers. I am lighting the big $2.00 candle at church this latter trend continues….

  14. The Wall Builders should heed: “If you entrench yourself behind strong fortifications, you compel the enemy seek a solution elsewhere.”
    – Carl von Clausewitz

    There must be a legal method of entry into the USA for what ever reason they arrive and the people entering need to abide by the rules. If people have overstayed their visas they should be expelled.

    President Agent Orange continues to demonstrate he is Non compos mentis. Pastor Pence looked like a Wax Figurine from one of Madame Tussaud’s Museum.

  15. walls are good, they hold up,the roof on my shack
    in that tiraid schumer and palosi had with deaf and dumb, was schumer trying not to show is bald spot? as i see it, ms hucka,,,,, was loooking like she really had a mess to spin. all the clowns at one sitting,priceless

  16. Todd @ 6:51 am, the Yellow Vests in France are receiving no coverage here in the USA.

    You have to either read about the Gilets Jaunes (“yellow vests”) in some left wing internet site like Counter Punch or the English edition of Le Monde. Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job.

    There is a good reason for the no coverage in the USA as the demonstrators are raging against the machine of Neo-Liberalism (Corporatism) and the political system that provides legal cover for it.

    From Le Monde >>> Then there was a series of leaks: Luxleaks, Swissleaks, Offshore Leaks, the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, all of which shed light on the tax evasion schemes of multinationals, politicians and celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment. These revelations exposed the myth of equal treatment for all under the tax system. In reality, there were two systems: in one, ordinary taxpayers were told they had to help to restore public finances; in the other, the powerful flouted the law and faced no consequences.<<

    Many Americans are aware one way or another of same dual system one for the Proles and another for the 1%, but CNN and MSDNC would rather give us endless re-runs 24/7/365 of President Agent Orange.

  17. I have been acquainted with Frost’s offering for lo these many years, but note that a fence is not a wall. What you wall out you wall in like, for instance, our beacon of democracy and our isolation from the global scene. We are already withdrawing from the world stage, and political science like natural science abhors a vacuum. (Enter Stage Left > China and Russia.)

    We have already signalled our withdrawal from world affairs with our withdrawal from TPP, the Iran atomic agreement, the Paris Accord and other conventions and protocols. The wall would be the first tangible withdrawal from the global scene just at the wrong time as transportation and digital means have made the globe smaller and more interdependent, a process we should be leading rather than leaving.

    I am opposed to “the wall” not only because it won’t work and is a waste of resources (especially with a first-ever trillion dollar current account budget facing us per CBO) but also because of the negative signals it sends to the rest of the world and the positive signals it sends to America-Firsters, who wrongly fancy that we can somehow leave the world to its own and prosper in our own little cocoon.

    What to do? Get a new president as soon as possible and come crawling back to NATO, reinstate our ties with our allies in the Iran treaty, the Paris Accord etc. (if they’ll have us). We have enormous damage to repair as a result of current mob rule in the Oval Office, and the trick will be to survive until we can guide our country back to some sort of a moral, economic and political reality, and such a movement is looking better, thanks to the efforts of Mueller and the SDNY, so let’s persevere. Meanwhile, no wall!

  18. Trump’s wall is a symptom of his racism. When he rants about how “dangerous” immigrants are, it sounds like a racist rant to me especially when he talks about accepting immigrants from Norway.

    It’s obvious to me that his closed, delusional mind and those of his followers do not understand that there are better, more cost effective ways to guard the border ie drones and other forms of technology . He refuses to listen to the real facts ie many fly over our border, and I suspect some come by boat.

    I just hope that Congress will not approve funding for the wall that he wants and that the Republicans (God help them) find the courage to stand up to him. We need more people like former president George Bush who are willing to work for the greater good even though they might have to break a campaign promise, even though they might lose their place in Congress.
    The lust for power is highly seductive and moves people to violate their own moral principles.

    Trump is addicted to power and lusts for applause as much as Gollum lusted for the ring of Sauron.

    I hope Congress roundly rejects his wall so we can laugh at Trump’s temper tantrum.

  19. “It would send the world a signal that the high-minded experiment that was the United States had ignominiously failed.”

    Another signal sender, perhaps the final one, will be the 2020 elections. We already know that few ranking Republicans have any regard for the rule of law or for the security of the country they live in. That applies equally to Trump’s base. If they manage to give him four more years in the Oval Office, that will indicate that, among the electorate, democracy haters outnumber America lovers.

    For those of us who have erroneously believed that intelligence, reason, wisdom and patriotism will win out in the end, that result would prove that we were wrong. It would vindicate thuggery as the will of the people. It would enshrine criminality as our new guiding value and provide the Republicans all the time they need to make it permanent. Tragically, it will prove the Putins of the world to be correct – people can’t govern themselves. They need a dictator to tell them what to do. Or, as a respondent to one of my letters to the editor wrote, “We’re lucky we have smart people to do our thinking for us.”

  20. I can’t help but think of the nature of walls in totalitarian governments, to which the republicans seem to aspire. They Do not serve to keep people out so much as to prevent people from leaving, the easier to oppress you with.

  21. Mea culpa. In the first sentence of paragraph 3, I omitted the term deficit following current account. It was early.

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