loren Eric Swanson: What walls do

Friday, May 19, 2006

What walls do

Do we really want to build another wall? A bigger question is, Are we in the age where walls are effective? Are walls working anywhere? The Maginot Line was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, machine gun posts and other defenses which France constructed along its borders with Germany to defend its border in the wake of WWI. The Line created a sense of security for the French that was not grounded in modern reality. When Germany did invade they simply went around the wall and entered France through Belgium and the Netherlands and employed planes to simply fly over the Line. The Line was an expensive symbol of security but it did not provide security. Today the term, “Maginot Line” serves as a metaphor for something that is confidently relied on but is ineffectual. So we may think that a wall will keep illegals from taking jobs away from Americans but that’s completely naïve. We are not losing American jobs because illegal aliens are sneaking into our country and taking them. We ourselves are bypassing the world of walls by sending our jobs overseas through outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China and service jobs to India and that has been good for America. Parenthetically, John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 points out that outsourcing is good for America and American jobs. On a program that aired in early 2006, Stossel said,
A Dartmouth study found that outsourcers actually create jobs in America at a faster rate than companies that don't outsource. The same study found that companies that outsourced abroad ended up hiring twice as many workers at home. Allowing outsourcing creates opportunity. It's easy to see the pain of the workers who are laid off; it's harder to see the benefits of free trade, because those benefits aren't news. It's true that in the last four years, America has lost more than 1 million jobs, but those were years when we had a recession. Look at the big picture. Since 1992, America has lost 361 million jobs, but during that same time we also gained 380 million jobs. Millions more than we lost.[1]

The Great Wall of China was built over a period of nearly 300 years (1368-1640) during the Ming Dynasty. It stretches nearly 4000 miles and was put in place to protect China from foreign invasion. It was incredibly expensive to build, maintain and garrison. In the end, it was bribing the gate keepers that allowed the enemies to invade. Last night on Leno I watched comic, Alonzo Bodden do his monologue, which included a bit on the wall? “And who do you suppose is going to build that wall? Who’s going to work out in the hot sun and do back-breaking labor? I’ll tell you one thing it won’t be my people (African Americans). We’ve done our time in the hot sun workin’ and a pickin’.”

The Berlin Wall was constructed after WWII between East and West Berlin. Fifty years later the wall was torn down because walls are ineffective. Thomas Friedman, in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, says that today we are a world defined by webs, not walls. He is describing globalization and the globalized world we live in. Walls make for good symbols but that’s about it. Our solution to illegal immigration will not be found in walls.
[1] [1] John Stossel's "Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior" http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=448934&page=2


At Monday, May 22, 2006 8:57:00 AM, Anonymous Andy said...

Excellent thought provoking question about the effectiveness of walls. I had not thought about it before, but agree, walls at best are temporary and ineffective solutions to the bigger issues at hand. China's great wall and the Berlin wall should make us stop and think before embarking on our own wall.

At Tuesday, May 23, 2006 5:51:00 PM, Anonymous michael said...

Yeah, this idea needs to be shouted from the rooftops. A wall along our border is offensive. Americans cheered and celebrated when the Berlin Wall fell. I remember the TV programs that treated this as a historic, peaceful event.

A wall is a huge sign that simply say "NO". I believe a wall along on southern border would say, "We are different than you, more fortunate than you, and you are not welcome."

Nothing Christian about that, Mr. Bush.


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