Chicago Sun-Times

From Lady Lib­erty to great wall of fear

- PHIL KADNER Email: philkad­ner@ gmail. com

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.

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.

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 ??  ?? The bor­der fence sep­a­rat­ing Anapra, Mex­ico, and Sun­land Park, New Mex­ico. | AP
The bor­der fence sep­a­rat­ing Anapra, Mex­ico, and Sun­land Park, New Mex­ico. | AP

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