221. The Wall

This post carries a poem at the bottom. Pardon me while I set the stage for it.

I wrote this poem years ago, when Trump wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar. It isn’t about him, but he eventually came to symbolize what the poem spoke against. When he started talking about a wall, I published the post repeated below, back in September of 2015. AWL was a new blog then, and no one was reading, so once again . . .

Have you ever asked yourself, “How could Germany have been fooled into following Adolph Hitler?” The answer is on your television this morning, and it is Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that Trump is a Nazi. I don’t see him as evil, merely foolish. But the techniques that have brought him to prominence are the same techniques that Hitler used.

First, appeal to a country’s deepest fears.
Second, claim to be the only one to have the answer.
Third, claim that your opponents are all cowardly and incompetent or, to use Trump’s favorite word – stupid.

The tactics are false. But the fears are real, so Trump promises his followers a wall to keep the world out. There is no wall strong enough to do it.

*****

This morning, September 15, 2015, Hungary closed its borders with a wall of razor wire. By the time this post reaches you, it will have been breached. Count on it.

The Hungarian Uprising of 1956 forms my first political memory. I was eight, and I remember sitting in front of the TV with my parents watching the streams of refugees escaping Soviet reprisals. Eventually 200,000 Hungarians fled. That memory makes it hard for me to watch Hungary put up a wall against Syrian refugees fleeing genocide.

Backed by Russia, East Germany built a wall across Berlin in 1961. It slowed the flow of refugees escaping from tyranny, but it did not stop them. And it didn’t stop the fall of East Germany.

There is a fence across our southern border that holds back no one hungry enough to jump it. Trump wants a wall to hold out “illegals” and a massive sweep through our country to deport the “illegals” who are already here. He wants declare that the 14th amendment doesn’t really mean what it says, in order to authorize the deportation of American citizens, born here just like you and I were.

Hitler would be proud. East Germany would understand. Russia is laughing.

*****

Poetry should stand without explanation, but, like anything else, it can be misused. So, be notified! This is not a right wing call to man the barricades to keep the enemy out, but a cautionary tale about what it will cost us if we don’t find real solutions.

Hungry

We who horde the common wealth
Upon this crowded planet,
Must look to see what lies beyond
Our barricaded borders.

The world stares back,
Unblinking eyes — prepared
To eat us all alive, and still be hungry.

                              It’s happened all before.

Once, seven in a cave drove out the eighth
With stones and fire-sharpened sticks,
Because the antlered carcass on the ground
Was not enough to feed them all.

And then in ancient days when kings and priests
Invented both religion and the law,
To fill their coffers so that they could eat
While those who raised the food went hungry.

Or yet again, when men of white
Despised the black, and black despised the gray.
And those whose colors ran together were disowned.
Color was enough to make them hate
But hunger taught them how and why
A thousand years ago.

Yet still we breed and laugh,
And play at deafness, though an angry sound
Declares the world is poised to seize its bread.

They will march like locusts through the earth,
And eat us all alive, and still be hungry.

This world is troubled. We are surrounded by people hungry for bread and freedom. Pointing a finger at them and saying, “It’s your fault!’ won’t solve our problems.

And a wall won’t do it. Never has; never will.

I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow.

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