When I was a kid, my concept of border walls was informed in equal measures by reality and art.
I remember watching evening news footage of the Berlin Wall, covered in razor wire and graffiti. It represented the Soviet architecture of oppression and tyranny in a land far away.
I also remember the nightmarish hammer march from Pink Floyd’s video The Wall. The children marching. The children raging. That unforgettable bass riff.
Those images and that soundtrack swirled together in my mind to produce a healthy disgust for giant border walls. They were monuments of dystopian authoritarianism that led to isolation and imprisonment. They were structures built by totalitarian regimes and patrolled by cheerless guards wearing bedpan helmets.
Walls were built to keep people in, and hold progress out.
That notion was validated in November, 1989, when Germans finally attacked the Berlin Wall with pickaxes and sledgehammers, allowing long-suffering East Berliners to finally come through and buy a decent pair of jeans.
I’m older now, but my vision of border walls remains unchanged. They still represent the folly and foolishness of authoritarian regimes that don’t understand history or human nature.
So when Donald Trump built his presidential campaign on an addlepated promise of building a “big, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border, it seemed like another stupid idea from a stupid man. But neither the candidate nor his proposal seemed real back then.
Never mind that estimates put the cost of building a Mexican border wall anywhere between $15 billion and $25 billion, plus an additional $700 million in annual maintenance fees. Or that that actual construction of a continuous border wall would be almost logistically impossible, thanks to areas of impassable terrain.
Even if it got built, it would be a pointless structure.
“Build a 10-foot wall and I’ll show you an 11-foot ladder,” said Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson during a speech last September in North Carolina. “If somebody is motivated enough to leave Central America and travel the entire distance of Mexico and climb a 10,000-foot mountain, they’re not going to be deterred by a 10-foot wall.”
Johnson said the U.S. already has all the border wall it needs—approximately 650 miles of wall and fence line in urban areas where it makes sense to have a wall.
Building additional fence lines through desolate areas of the Rio Grande Valley, along barren stretches of desert, or on a remote mountaintop makes no sense unless you have guard towers every several hundred feet. As Chapo Guzman can tell you, no wall is tall enough to tunnel under, especially if you have all day to dig.
Walls are an inconvenience, but not a deterrent. Even if Trump builds his wall 40-feet high as promised, people who are desperate enough to flee their homelands and enter the U.S. illegally will continue to find a way in—over, under, or around any wall.
The wall also won’t stop criminals any more than outlawing drugs has stopped cartels. Just the opposite. Criminal activity always flourishes during prohibition, and a wall will only give birth to newer and bigger human-trafficking networks. It would give Mexico’s cartels a new business venture to ensure their continued economic viability in the years ahead.
Outside of Trump rallies in the Rust Belt, nobody is chanting “BUILD THAT WALL!” louder than coyotes, cartel bosses, and human-traffickers.
But logic and common sense haven’t dampened Trump’s fantasy. In his Orwellian world of alternative facts and superlative Spicerspeak, a big border wall makes sense.
So I say, let Trump build it. The sooner the better. And make sure he puts his name on it. It will literally be the biggest concrete failure of his presidency.
The United States needs a reality check. And maybe it will take a large, half-built and ineffective border wall to do the job.
The worst thing that could happen would be to postpone construction. If Trump is still campaigning on promises to build a border wall in 2020, it will be our failure, not his.
So let him build it now. The quicker it’s built, the quicker it crumbles. And once Trump is gone from the presidency, we can tear down the wall like they did in Berlin in ’89 and symbolically embrace our Mexican neighbors again.
We might even be able to convince Roger Waters to perform.