November 18, 2019

Regarding Walls

President Reagan at Berlin Wall

According to Wikipedia, “A wall is a structure that defines an area, carries a load, or provides shelter or security.” Now most of us are familiar with the following types of walls: defensive, foundation, load-bearing, retaining, sea, and border. During this election campaign, however, it is clear that this latter type of wall has received the most attention.

As a keystone of his campaign, Donald J. Trump (R) has stated the necessity of building a wall that would clearly delineate the sovereign borders of Mexico and the United States. In a July 2016 interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, shot down Donald Trump’s campaign promise that he’s going to build a wall and that Mexico will foot the bill. “There is no way that Mexico can pay [for] a wall like that.” Despite their August 31st face-to-face meeting in Mexico City, just one day later, a Twitter war erupted. After Trump tweeted that “Mexico will pay for the wall,” Peña Nieto responded with a tweet of his own: “I repeat what I told you personally, Mr. Trump: Mexico will never pay for a wall.”

With his constant reminders that “a wall will be built,” Mr. Trump continues to enrage certain individuals who feel that building a wall for security reasons is harsh, judgmental, and mean-spirited. President Obama, in a May 2016 address to Rutgers University graduates, noted: “…The pace of change on the planet is accelerating, not subsiding, and that recent history had proved that the toughest challenges cannot be solved in isolation. A wall won’t stop that…The point is, to help ourselves, we’ve got to help others – not pull up the drawbridge and try to keep the world out.” Not surprisingly, many Hollywood stars have had plenty of negative things to say about the wall, as well. A Netflix children’s show, All Hail King Julien, has even developed an episode where lemurs sing a song titled, “Don’t Touch Our Stuff,” as a wall is built.

Given the tremendous “anti-wall” talk, it is ironic that some of the wall’s fiercest opponents have either built, or are in the process of building walls. For themselves.

According to The Daily Mail, billionaire Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has erected a six-foot high stone wall around his massive Hawaiian vacation property that has upset neighbors who have lost their views of the Pacific Ocean. As one resident noted: “The feeling of it is really oppressive. It’s immense. It’s really sad that somebody would come in, and buy a huge piece of land and the first thing they do is cut off this view that’s been available and appreciative by the community here for years.”

As reported by Breitbart News, Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R, Wisconsin) home “is surrounded by a tall border fence reinforced by equally high bushes— ensuring both privacy and security. Moreover, the fence is manned by an on-duty agent who guards his property’s perimeter. Upon even the slightest appearance of any unusual activity— such as a 5’2″ female taking a photograph of the fence— Ryan’s border agent will deploy into action to ensure the perimeter’s sovereignty.”

And as noted in a February 19, 2016 New York Times article, even Pope Francis has entered the fray: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Mr. Trump’s advisor, Dan Scavino, Jr., quickly responded: “Amazing comments from the Pope — considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls.”

When I was a young man, I remember how President Reagan traveled to West Berlin and stood beside a mighty wall that had been erected by the Soviet Union in 1961. On June 12, 1987, Reagan called for the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to open up the barrier which had divided West and East Berlin since 1961. That afternoon, the president declared:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Throughout human history, walls have been built and destroyed. In the case of the Soviet Union, their wall collapsed because its foundation—socialism— has never worked. In our time, despite the rise of Islamic terrorism and general criminality, some argue that a sovereign nation such as the United States has no right to build a wall to protect its citizens and regulate those who enter. As my father used to say: “I hope it works out.”

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Written by
Deacon Kurt Godfryd

REVEREND MR. KURT GODFRYD is editor of Catholic Journal and a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Married and the father of five children, Deacon Kurt was ordained to the diaconate on October 4, 2008 by His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida and is assigned to St. Clement of Rome parish in Romeo, Michigan. A native Detroiter, he was educated at the Jesuit-run University of Detroit Mercy, where he received a B.S. in finance, M.B.A., and M.A. in economics. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he earned an M.A. in pastoral ministry.

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Written by Deacon Kurt Godfryd
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