President Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the Southern border of Mexico has been called a “4th Century Solution” to a 21st Century problem. Renderings of the proposed wall illustrate a brown stainless steel structure decidedly lacking in architectural creativity.
Other images of existing walls show a concrete structure with abandoned vehicles and accumulated trash dotting the grass along the grounds. Although it may beat out the barbed wire “line of control” between India and Bangladesh, it will not likely be the inspiration for a new verse of Katherine Lee Bates, “America the Beautiful.”
Neither will it be the kind of infrastructure improvement that will inspire developers to build million-dollar homes next door, with thematic subdivision names like “Wall-flowers” or “Windows on the Wall.” Third graders are not likely to take field trips to see this wonder of American ingenuity. One would think that with all the real estate acumen and appreciation for beauty (at least of the opposite sex) that the Trump brand inspires, he could do better than this prison-worthy facade.
Why can’t we have a wall that competes with The Great Wall of China? The really cool thing about the Great Wall of China, every year, they have a marathon that attract participants from all over the world. Plus, it is an aesthetically-pleasing, brick and mortar feat of engineering. It took over 200 years to build and one million workers to construct. Not unlike our struggle to secure the Southern border, the Great Wall of China was built to keep the Mongols out of Northern China. The Mongols needed food and clothing to survive, and the Chinese needed Mongolian horses, but not as much as the Mongols needed food.
The Mongols were a problem for the Chinese and after efforts at appeasement and economic aid became expensive and unsuccessful the Chinese gave up and stopped aiding and trading. The Mongolians united behind a leader named Genghis Khan, and his successor Kublai Khan, capturing the capital of China in 1215. But the Yuan dynasty, as it was known, did not last long. The Ming dynasty took over and in conjunction with other diplomatic and economic maneuvers, embarked on building the Great Wall. And they did.
The Ming structure was vastly more ambitious than any of the previous structures, costing as much as a hundred times more than earlier walls with ornamental gates and forts affixed with views of snow-capped mountains. Problem was, the wall as a barrier to military assault was dubious. Mongolian warriors attacked towers in the middle of the night using grappling hooks to climb the wall. Soldiers stationed along the Great Wall were isolated, lonely and cold. The soldiers experienced low morale and were accused of cowardice when they fled the wall without putting up any resistance to the advances of the Mongolian army.
Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of friendly contact between the border guards and the Mongolians. Chinese soldiers often traded and openly colluded with the trespassers. For all its magnificence as a structure, the Great Wall was not effective because it was manned by human beings. Although a symbol of great pride to the Chinese, it was an imperfect defense in its struggle against its irrepressible neighbor.
Consider the lessons of the Chinese. Building a big, beautiful expensive wall is wonderful if you want to put a few million peasants to work. But this is America, and we don’t have peasants. We have workers who want minimum wage, overtime, benefits, vacations, sick days, Family Leave and so on and so forth. Consider the cost effectiveness of spending decades on an antiquated, ugly solution to an age-old problem. Besides the fact that the wall has become a symbol of the dysfunctional, partisan nature of our government, it’s just stupid. It won’t work and it will cost a fortune.
But, hey, I can’t wait to sign up for the Border Wall 10k.