The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Something there is about a wall, that wants it down, or not, as the case may be

I am perplexed, which should not come as a surprise to anyone, by a great many things these days. I suppose it’s because I’m getting older; I am 56 now and the world makes less sense to me now than it did when I was sixteen. Of course, for most sixteen year old males the world’s lack of sense is not perplexing; figuring out how to get laid is. I don’t imagine that the subject has gotten any simpler in the forty years since it was my primary obsession, but time has a way of giving you other things to think about, most of which revolve around paying bills you’d rather not pay.

I am perplexed, for example, by the Federal government’s curious inability to build a fence.  Since the beginnings of human civilization one of the few things that governments of all ideological bents have been good at is the building of walls, fences, moats, and various and sundry other ways of making getting from Point A to Point B as annoying and cumbersome as possible. In the Scriptures, for instance, we see the Children of Israel’s way into the Promised Land blocked by the towering walls of the city of Jericho and we rejoice a few verses later as those sonically challenged walls come a-tumbling down, although it is at times like this that one must wonder if issuing government contracts to the lowest bidder is such a good idea, especially as this lowest bidder’s next job was building the levees around New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. It perplexes me that no one in the Corps of Engineers noticed that building walls of any sort were not this particular bidder's strong point. Some things are just a dead giveaway, but one must never underestimate the government's desire not to see what is directly in front of it, I think. 

In another, perhaps more germane example, the first Qin emperor of China, the great and more than vaguely loony Qin Shi Huang, the man who united all the warring Chinese states into one great empire, decided that the people of the northern grasslands and the Gobi Desert were not worth the time and effort of conquering–that lot was simply too lumpen, don’t you know—and so to keep them at bay and off the freshly mown grass he decided to build a wall between his newly unified empire and the barbarians. And so it was that the Great Wall of China came to be. The Great Wall stretches for two thousand miles across northern China and for the most part it worked as advertised. Oh, on occasion a Mongol horde would get through and China would have to suffer through the hacking, slashing, raping, and pillaging that such breaches afforded, but in the main, the wall did its job and kept the barbarians out and the tourists and their money in.

And in the interests of fairness I should point out that the Romans built not one, but two walls across Great Britain to separate Scotland from England. Large sections of Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall still exist and you can go see them, if you care to see that sort of thing. The Romans built the walls to keep the Scots and Picts from raiding what was then the Roman province of Britannia, a fact that I am sure boosted the ego of many a Scottish and Pictish war chief until someone explained to them that the Romans regarded Caledonia—the Latin name of Scotland—as a great festering pile of pig manure no one in their right mind would want in the first place.

For even more Roman fence-type fun, we have the Limes Germanicus and the Limes Moesiae, which the Romans built to keep the Germans out of the Empire, the Limes Arabicus, which kept the Arabs out of the Empire, and the limes at the edge of the glass, which keep the margaritas out of me. To go a bit further afield, the British built the Lines of Torres Vedras, which successfully kept the French out of Portugal, and the French built the Maginot Line to keep the Germans out of France, which was somewhat less successful. The Russians built the Iron Curtain; its most visible manifestation, the Berlin Wall, was pretty effective until the East Germans got tired of looking at in 1989. The Iron Curtain’s less visible manifestations were the heavily defended borders between members of the Warsaw Pact, a harder to understand phenomenon given that no Bulgarian was going to risk his life and already limited freedom to defect to Romania.

Most recently, of course, we have the Israelis and their antiterrorist fence or wall or whatever the correct word for the thing is. The Israelis erected the whatever it is after waves of suicide bombers began striking inside Israel after 2000 in the wake of the second Palestinian intifada, the Israelis working on the entirely reasonable assumption that if the bombers couldn’t get into Israel they couldn’t kill anyone with a bomb. The dramatic drop in the rate of suicide bombings in Israel would seem to bear out this assumption, but the critics remain, of course; empiricism has never been popular amongst the chattering classes. There’s just something about facts and figures that makes your average idealist’s skin crawl.

All of which leads us back to the question of why the government of this our Great Republic cannot build a fence along the country’s southern border. I have heard all sorts of reasons for this peculiar handicap. Building such a fence is technically impossible is one reason I’ve heard, as well as that fence-building is a racist macroaggression, and the one I like the most, building the fence would cost too much. First, as to the questions of costs and possibility, it seems to me that if the first emperor of China can build a gigantic wall that you can’t see from outer space two thousand years ago then there is no reason why the government of this our Great Republic cannot build a chain link fence that you can see from Mexico with the naked eye.  Chain link fencing is a much easier material to work with than truly humongous blocks of stone and we could probably put a chain link fence up in much less time than it took the Chinese to build the Great Wall. The fence will have to come with all the electronic doodads beloved of the surveillance state these days, which will cause all of the usual cost overruns that we must expect whenever the government tries to do anything. But what of it? This country, after all, has spent trillions of dollars over the past fifty years trying to eliminate poverty and the poverty rate hasn’t budged an inch, and yet we continue to spend money on trying to eliminate poverty. If we can spend trillions of dollars on something we know isn’t going to work, we can certainly spend a few million on something that might; you never know, after all. Milton might be alive, he said, making an allusion so obscure that not even the guys on The Big Bang Theory can figure it out. Well, maybe Sheldon would catch it.

As for the racism of it all, well, I don’t know about that. Every country has immigration laws and I’ve always had the idea that if everyone else has immigration laws we should have them too. It’s only fair, you know. And we should get to enforce them like everyone else. After all, Mexico has no qualms about shipping Hondurans back to Honduras if they catch them working in Mexico so why should we debate sending Mexicans back home? And if sending people back where they came from is racist, does this make the Mexican government racist as well? If this is the case, then this country should be doing everything in its power to stop the hordes of racist Mexicans from coming into our country, lest they infect our unsuspecting citizenry with their low, vile, and altogether contemptible racism. I hear, though, that this is not going to happen, as our Illinois Incitatus will be declaring shortly that the immigration laws are whatever He says they are on any given day, and that it will please His Elective Majesty to let these poor benighted wretches into this country. I suspect, however, that the poor benighted wretches will have to wait for November for the good news. The former junior senator from Illinois will not want to rile up the bitter clingers until after the midterm elections.  In a world filled with much confusion and perplexity, our prairie solon’s need to pander for votes is the one thing we can all count on. In this He is as true as the North Star, a mother’s love, and my dentist finding something expensive to fix at every checkup. Thus it ever was, saith the sages, and thus it ever shall be.

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  • At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Akaky, you deserve a Roman wreath.
    I am sending this to a friend who has a blog on immigration.

    [no, I didn't get the Milton'll have to re-educate me]

  • At 10:38 PM, Blogger Joseph said…

    I thought the suicide bombing rate in Israel declined because it is very hard to recruit experienced suicide bombers.

  • At 7:10 PM, Blogger Dick Stanley said…

    Can't build a wall, eh? Well, here's something to be hopeful about. They can issue directions (lot of directions) on how to toast marshmellows without burning yourself or anyone else. That must count for something. Or other.

    Maybe they could build the wall out of marshmellows?

  • At 4:21 AM, Blogger jade said…

    the metaphor: In letting my daughter play outside in the front yard, maybe I’m attempting to undo the fence-building in the first place.” She sights a lack of distance as the reason the essay was difficult to write—her daughter was born only six months before. wood fence pickets


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