A wall has never solved a problem

It’s not an age of walls we need to go back to, it’s the day when we left our houses open without fear. And that’s in front of us.

(NOTE: My wife proofed this article and said, “Most readers will disagree.” I said “That’s ok – is it disrespectful to my readers or the President? Disagreement is ok. Disrespect is not.” She said, “Everything changed. People can’t separate disagreement and disrespect anymore.” I’m taking that chance that there’s more good will in people’s hearts than in the air these days. There is no disrespect here. Just dialogue.) When I was a kid we never locked anything. We had one key, and everyone at First Baptist Church knew where it was hidden on the back porch. My father has never carried a key to anything. The keys to our cars stayed under the mat (right where you kept yours!) Oh… the good ol’ days. If only we had someone who could take us back there, right? Now, don’t turn the page. This isn’t an anti-Trump harangue. Adults ought to be able to discuss things, hear other points of view, even when we disagree. So, we ought to have a conversation about this Wall. There’s been no real dialogue that I’m aware – in congress or the public square, just grandstanding and angry chants, one side or the other. Since the Executive Order is now the way our presidents get stuff done, however, apparently we’re going to build it. And pay for it. (“Check’s in the mail” from Mexico.) My issue with the Wall is pretty simple: It won’t solve the problem. No wall ever did. The entire world cheered when the Berlin wall fell. Now we’re building one. Some folks talk about the Middle East like they’re barbarians, perpetually fighting. (We should talk about that attitude, but that’s another subject.) There’s now a 40’ high concrete barrier snaking through the West Bank. I’ve stood there. It’s a monument to insolence and myopia. Hatred, fear, and pain radiate from it. Now we’re building one. But it won’t solve the problem. No wall ever did. I oppose the Wall not because I don’t believe in rules, but because it only serves as a proud façade to cover the real problem. The Wall won’t solve it. It’ll just build animosity – and change our world-view and our image in the process. The Statue of Liberty, with her courageous and bold welcome to the world’s people, has been our rightful boast to all who longed to be like us: free and brave. But fencing things in and out doesn’t really say “free,” and standing behind a wall may not be the best image for “brave.” I see fear and a narrowed sense of identity, not freedom and bravery. For better or worse, it’s a new world, a global world. Our largest corporations are all globally based, creating jobs and products in and for a world marketplace. All my adult life I’ve heard some politicians proudly hailing the free market. But that’s all changing, and the Wall is a pretty good symbol for our new world order. Sure, the change will bring some jobs in the short run, but in the long run we may just be cutting off our nose to spite our face. It’s a global marketplace now – and that will never change. The problem isn’t borders. So the solution isn’t a barrier. The problem has always been economics. If there aren’t jobs here, they’re not coming. And if they have jobs there, they aren’t leaving. Construction firms in Charlotte advertise in Mexican newspapers. So, if you answer that ad, show up for work, should we really treat you like you’re the problem? Immigration is about economics, so if the president is a one-man answer to our “terrible economy” as he says, that’s all the fix we’ll need for immigration. And our billions would have been much better used on infrastructure – bridges, not walls. The poet Robert Frost had it right when he said, 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 offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall. No matter how long it stands, one day someone will tear it down. That day the world will celebrate, and they will look back on a sad age when Americans weren’t free enough to see beyond ourselves or brave enough to look for real answers. It’s not an age of walls we need to go back to, it’s the day when we left our houses open without fear. And that’s in front of us. (Dr. Russ Dean is from Clinton and co-pastor with wife Amy Jacks Dean, a native of Clinton, of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte.)

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