Our conversation with Bill Broyles yesterday, both at the hotel and at dinner, got me thinking again about walls. A wall, inherently, is built to separate people, countries and cultures. The rhetoric is usually based around security, as people will argue that they need to be able to regulate who comes into their state. This sounds somewhat reasonable on paper, until you research it and learn that in fact that walls, historically, have not been effective for security purposes. As this article from the NYT explains, the results of walls for this base purpose are mixed. The most famous wall in history, The Great Wall of China, was largely ineffective, as people simply went around it. The Berlin Wall is an example of a wall that was effective at its stated purpose to separate Communist East Germany from Democratic West Germany in the aftermath of WWII, but today it is an infamous historic symbol, as it inflicted great pain upon people and families, and is a black mark upon German history. When you read through the numerous historical examples, you start to realize that the main purpose of many of these walls was not security.
So if security is not the most common purpose of a wall, what is the true purpose of a wall? My theory is that a wall is more of a political symbol than it is a practical tool. It creates a physical separation that allows for people with nationalistic tendencies to feel safe, even if it does not actually increase their safety. In this way, it acts a lot like the TSA, as both perform “security theater” to give the illusion of increased security/effort without doing much to actually increase safety. We like to think that the extra steps created in the TSA security line or the extra regulations on what we can bring on planes make us safer, but all of this extra hassle does little to make us safer. In a similar vein, building a wall will do little to make us safer, but will make some people feel safer. Meanwhile, other people, such as Tohono O’odham will suffer the consequences, as it will be even more difficult for the American side to remain connected to the Mexican side of the nation. It is also just flat out insulting to people such as the Tohono O’odham, as the American government once again will be essentially telling them that they do not care about their way of life or their rights as the original shepherds of the land.