Saturday, November 21, 2015

Our Obsession With Walls

The frenzy to build walls to keep unwanted people out and to provide internal security has dominated the world for eons.  Walls can be made of brick, metal and stone, but they are for the most part built by fear.  We have erected many walls—walls that divide “them and us”, walls to keep at bay the real or imagined threats we perceive from others.  Legislation can be a wall.  Ghettos can be a wall. Religion can be a wall. Limiting voting rights can be a wall.  Suburbs can be a wall.  On the personal level, we build walls too, to keep people at a distance, to protect ourselves from letting others get into our inner private worlds.  We humans have an obsession with walls!

Not so very long ago there was an 87 mile long,  12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide wall in Berlin, Germany, dividing east from west. Behind the wall on the East German side was a so-called “Death Strip”: floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight.  From 1961 to 1989, more than 5000 East Germans (including 600 guards) managed to get by the wall by various means:  jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, flying over it in hot air balloons, crawling through sewers and driving through unfortified sections of the wall at high speeds in cars and trucks.  In 1989 the Berlin Wall was opened for people to finally pass through—and from the East and from the West the people came to the wall with hammers and picks (they were called “wall woodpeckers”) to tear that wall down.

Conwy, Wales 
The Great Wall of China was a gigantic structure built to keep the enemy out .  Within just a few years, however, that mighty wall was breached three times by the enemy, not by climbing over it, or getting under it, but by bribing the gatekeepers.  The wall didn’t collapse, but the guards did!

Like the city walls of Jericho in Old Testament times, all walls and barriers built to keep the stranger at a safe distance, whether built of stone and mortar, or of  human frenzy and fear will come tumbling down.  

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