Robert Frost famously wrote that fences are a good thing, that they encourage neighborliness.
It’s probably because a fence usually signifies an agreement between neighbors, humans basically acting like canines, marking their territory: “I’m going to do my thing over here, and you can do what you want over there (and vice versa – woof!)”
Walls are different: besides being taller, thicker, stronger, they’re afraid. They’re afraid of their neighbors – or anything else that they don’t understand, over there on the other side.
Walls, of course, is what the current White House resident is all about. His drive to build a total southern border is simply a matter of fear, stoking our fears by stigmatizing as “murderers and rapists” those about who he has no real knowledge. And his separation of children from parents is certainly the cruelest of all the walls he has been able to devise.
And then there are the “Dreamers.” Though they have been brought here as children, have been educated in America, and in just about every way possible are Americans, he wants to throw them back over the wall. The reason?— they don’t look like him, and he’s apparently afraid they represent what the entire United States might come to look like.
We could document the whole range of legal, bureaucratic and psychological walls the president has constructed, but one especially stands out as the most porous and ineffective. By establishing border restrictions to travel, he tried to build a wall against the virus. “Ha-ha, nice try,” is the reaction of these miniscule beads of disease and death.
True to form, his fear-response rendered him incapable of real understanding and thus unable to implement what would be best to defeat COVID-19. His ignorance translated into rejection of the few simple, relatively flimsy barriers that scientists said could protect us: staying at home as much as possible, putting six feet of air between one another, placing a small covering over our face.
And just as no wall will protect against the virus, there is no wall that can protect us from the fiercest, most lethal pandemic of all – the inexorable warming of the planet.
Our little ball of dirt has basically had it with the humans crawling around on it. It can no longer put up with the range of insults and abuses we’ve devised: contamination of the soil with trash of every kind; plasticizing of the oceans; gradual extinction of the non-human beings that share the planet with us.
Is it revenge? No, that’s a human response; for a planet, it’s simply the inevitable, inexorable result of nature thrown out of balance. This earth-ball is a living, breathing thing, its natural processes simply reacting to the poisons that Homo sapiens have sown everywhere.
California, of course, is in the path of that reaction, its fires more widespread and less tamable as the temperatures increase, the atmosphere dries, dislocating thousands over the past ten years. Last year saw a wildfire increase globally, scorching even huge areas of the Amazon rainforest, the product of deforestation, another of our planetary “improvements. On our east coast, the most obvious product of climate change is rising seas and flooding, driven by the collapse of ice sheets and whatever else is frozen.
Rising seawater of course demands building walls, seawalls . . . though the necessary 50,000 miles of these coastal barriers comes with a hefty price tag: $400 billion. Of course, that’s near-term coinage, our grandchildren are the ones faced with a much, much higher bill for something easily swept away by increasingly severe storms.
But we have to acknowledge one wall that actually works for the president, this one the most catastrophic: his propensity for distraction, for chaos. On a daily basis he fogs over our real concerns with something jaw-droppingly outrageous, even crazy: a new lie; a new conspiracy; a new set of “facts”; a new treatment, or even “cure”; a new message that’s totally mixed, confusing, contradictory.
This wall of flim-flamery prevents us from focusing on our No. 1 priority, finding new ways to maintain the best planet possible for future generations, an inheritance of soil, air and water that replenishes rather than kills, a chance for less turmoil, greater peace, less needless death. We are currently on the proverbial slope that is slippery, the virus – which the president allows to have its way with us — pushing us further down.
Thus, our own greatest fear should be that future generations will consider us as virtual assassins, life forms that stupidly walled themselves off from the ability, the desire, to create a planet livable for all.