The heatwave in the Bay Area is a dangerous one, for much of the golden grass covering our rolling hills has not yet been plowed under. It doesn’t take much to set it ablaze, and so I’m glad for firebreaks, those borders that protect us from the fires, those walls that keep us safe.
Much has been said about borders and building walls, tall walls, long walls, fortified walls, cyber walls, customs walls, checkpoint walls. Why have walls? Americans like people. We are friendly folk. Why do we need walls?
It goes against our grain to build walls around our country, concrete walls scarring our land. In spite of the media’s assertions to the contrary (and if a lie is repeated it somehow becomes true), Americans are not racists. We found ourselves in the twenty-first century scarred by our shameful history of segregation but accepting, even lauding, integration and equal rights for all. If anything, an inflammatory press keeps the uncivil Civil War alive. And we welcome immigrants of all races, as long as they desire to be Americans and respect our rule of law. And so we build walls, borders, fire trails, to ensure this happens.
We have an iron fence around our property to keep out wild animals, for we live near a state park. Turkeys fly over the fence (it’s a sight to see, a turkey flying) and do their considerably large business on our patio. That is merely annoying, not dangerous. But young bobcats and coyotes squeeze through the iron bars. They would make short work of our cats. They are not friendly, even if cute. I was sad when we fenced our olive trees with green wire to protect them from the deer. Every fall, these bucks rid their adolescent antlers by rubbing them against the trunks, so their adult antlers will grow. The practice reminded me of children and their baby teeth falling out to make room for the permanent ones. And at some point we all must leave childhood behind if we are to become adults.
There are places for fences and walls and I hold, as does the poet Robert Frost’s disagreeable neighbor, that “Good fences make good neighbors.” The narrator in his poem, “Mending Fences,” questions the mending of fences, the building of walls, as not encouraging the true “mending of fences” between people. Many question today. We want to be friendly. We are big-hearted good Americans.
But we need to keep our fences mended, not to keep us in but to keep the coyotes out. President Reagan cried, “Tear down this wall,” for it was a wall that kept people in, imprisoning them, not a wall that kept people out. The why, the purpose, is important. Pope Francis, according to the fiery press, has decried those who build walls. That’s not quite what he meant, but he could have been more specific, more careful in his choice of words with a predatory press at his heels.
Historian Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution in his syndicated column this last week referred to Hadrian’s Wall that kept the Scots out of Roman Britain: “Rome worked when foreigners crossed through its borders to become Romans. It failed when newcomers fled into the empire and adhered to their own cultures.” Immigration is fine if assimilation is desired, but dangerous if assimilation is shunned. This latter case has been true, it appears to me, with many illegal immigrants crossing our southern border.
Assimilation has also been intentionally avoided by Muslim refugees transplanted by the United Nations, encouraged and supported by “humanitarian” foundations, both religious and secular. These refugees are flown over our borders, placed in rural communities throughout the U.S., towns unprepared for those who disapprove, hate, and fear American culture and freedom. Sharia law replaces American law. But we cannot have two sets of laws. We must be equal under the law. Lady Justice is blind.
Let’s rephrase Mr. Hanson’s excellent and succinct doctrine: “America works when foreigners cross its borders to become Americans. It fails when they cross its borders to adhere to their own culture.” We are a melting pot. We need to melt (at least to a degree).
This is a start, but I would add “when foreigners cross its borders legally.” We have much in common with our Catholic neighbors to the south in terms of faith and culture, for cult produces culture. I believe most Hispanics do assimilate into American life, stabilizing it. We welcome Western cultures who respect freedom. That there are so many immigrants here illegally, that children have been impacted by this national travesty, that there are sanctuary cities allowed, cities that encourage ongoing illegal activity, is a tragedy.
As we head for the California primary on Tuesday, it is gravely unfortunate how the press, both right and left, have misrepresented the desire, indeed the urgent need, to build a wall. They hype hyperbole and invite mob rule. They silence free speech.
We should not be afraid of walls. Walls define who we are. They are a tool. They protect us so that we can thrive, can love one another and live in peace. And America must thrive. She must be the light on the hill, the beacon of hope to a world of lawlessness. She must hold her lantern high, and welcome all who love her law.
I’ve been promoting my new release, The Fire Trail (eLectio Publishing), which is about the border between civilization and barbarism. Lady Liberty commands the cover, but the sun is setting in a fiery sky. Hope is in the lit lantern she holds up to the world. Hope flames in the candles at her feet.
The Fire Trail is now being carried by Orinda Books and Rakestraw Books as well as online retailers.
I will be doing a reading of The Fire Trail at Curves Walnut Creek (a chapter is based here), Tuesday, June 14, Flag Day at 11 a.m., 1848 Tice Valley Rd., near Rossmoor. Some of the ladies are taking parts and it should be fun. Open to the public. Copies available with a $10 donation to Blue Star Moms East Bay. Come on by!