Donald Trump's first week: Sound and fury
There are some things that you just shouldn’t do if you’re POTUS, leader of the free world.
Announcing your to-do list on Twitter for instance: Wednesday: Banning refugees and people from Syria.
Then of course there’s formulating and implementing policy on the fly, using 140 characters to get your message to “we, the people”.
So when you say on the campaign trail (as the incoming American president Donald Trump did) that you will build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep immigrants out, you have to fulfill your part of the bargain and do it.
And when you promise that you will make the Mexicans who you are walling out pay for the wall you are building, it’s another thing you have to stick to so you don’t lose face.
So, when the Mexicans show you the middle finger and tell you to pay for your own wall, and you tweet that you will hit them with a 20% import tax to pay for it, then that statement is retracted within hours…
My wise dad would have called this noise and tried to see through the tinnitus to understand the ideas and thoughts behind the ridiculousness of Trump and the way he shoots his mouth off.
I have tried to emulate my dad’s innate reasonableness and have tried to make some sense of the first week in the Trump administration.
There’s an Allan Gray advert repeated over and over on television showing the desperate sadness and longing of a man and a woman, separated for the three decades of the wall’s existence: trapped on either side of the Berlin wall.
The Berlin wall was a barbed wire and concrete monument of hate that was built in 1961 by the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic between East and West Berlin.
The official purpose was to keep Western Fascists out of East Germany as it was thought they would undermine the socialist state.
The opposite was true. The wall was meant to keep East Germans in, to stop them from defecting to the West.
Thousands died trying to escape, shot down in cold blood as they made their desperate attempts to get over the wall.
It’s the thing about walls. They divide. They keep out. They keep in. They’re exclusionary. They’re containing. They’re defensive.
Walls, in general, are not good. Not not good all the time, but mostly not good.
Being met with a “wall of silence” is one example, the wall being the secrecy of police officers that lie or look the other way to protect other police officers.
Stonewalling is equally negative: the act of giving evasive answers or refusing to answer at all.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, Robert Frost wrote in his poem Mending Wall, referring mostly to the wind and the sun and the air that seem to will stones loose; frost that swells and contracts so the stones and boulders keeping the wall upright tumble to the ground.
But the key line in Frost’s poem is that “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.”
In Donald Trump’s case, the 3057km stretch of wall he wants to build along the border of four states – Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California – is not designed to ensure good neighbourliness.
It’s a wall that will create divisiveness between America and Mexico that will mean separation, isolation, mean spiritedness and in some cases, sheer cruelty for those Mexican Americans with families, business ties and interests in Mexico.
Mr Trump insists his wall will be built to restrict illegal immigration.
The tweeting president, in a series of tweets on his personal Twitter account, wrote variously this week: When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they bringing those problems... They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some I assume are good people.
There have been walls built throughout history.
The Walls of Benin (now known as Edo in Nigeria) were a combination of ramparts and moats used as a means of defense.
The Wall of Jericho, the oldest city wall in the world, was a defensive flood protection wall thought to date back to 8000BC.
Herodotus the Greek historian wrote in 450BC about the Walls of Babylon – 56 miles long, 89 feet thick, 320 feet high, wide enough, he observed, to allow two four horse chariots to pass each other.
So we know that the building of walls is not new. The Economist recently reported that at least 40 countries have built fences or walls since the Berlin Wall fell – a large number of them since the World Trade Centre massacre.
It also reports that the United States already has a very large tract of wall along the border of Mexico.
It goes against the spirit of a country that has as its anthem The Star Spangled Banner in which the US is described as the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.
America is a country built on immigration; the Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbour has as its mission statement these words: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
I think Donald Trumps view of the world is simplistic. And unrealistic.
Keep them out, he says; the Mexicans, the Syrians, immigrants, refugees.
At a time when globalization is the world’s key catchphrase, Trump is talking isolationism, exclusionism.
It’s a return to the concept of apartheid; of circling wagons into a laager.
Walls, most of those who have built them as a means of defense have found, rarely achieve the effect for which they are intended.
It is estimated that Trump’s wall will cost $15-billion – an amount equal to the GDP of more than a few small countries.
That sum could help eradicate malaria, educate the continents brightest, feed Africa’s hungry, help the indigent, nurse back to health millions, be spent on research to put an end to HIV Aids…
The list is endless as is the outrage of most right thinking human beings.