I remember a time as a kid when my two brothers and I attempted to build a wall in our backyard from old cement blocks stored on our property.

The task turned out to be more sweat and strain than we imagined. After a few hours of heavy lifting, we gave up and trotted off to share a Coke and move on to some real fun. 

Might be a good idea if The Donald, Nancy and Chuck trotted off somewhere and shared a Coke. Let them tell a few jokes, cool down a bit, drop the rhetoric and get back to work.

For us observers, it’s been exhausting to watch the powerful trio argue over a wall, of all things, especially one that is to be built across sun-drenched land next to a river in the desert wilderness.

Trump talks like his wall is going to be a national park or a national monument, drawing tourists down to see it. He refers to it as “a big, beautiful wall.” But very few walls are interesting.

Just who and what are we trying to wall in or wall out? Not everyone seeking entry into the U.S. is a gangster, a drug runner or a prostitute. The vast numbers who come to our southern U.S. border for entry simply want a better and safer way of life for themselves and their families.

There are bandits and bad guys among them, hauling drugs. We know that. Much of the time they are caught. Sadly, we are a nation of drug users, and these folks will get their drugs regardless of a border wall.

The really bad people, the terrorists and bombers, enter our country with visas on commercial flights. The terrorists who were the 911 pilots completed their flight training in the U.S., and flew American airliners into the twin towers and the Pentagon. 

The big question is: wouldn’t you and I want the same for our lives or families if we lived in poverty in a third-world country hell-bent on self destruction?

Walls do work in the beginning, but over time they become ineffective, even obsolete. History teaches us this.

Gangsters and crooks are always on the lookout for an easy way to bridge a barrier. When there is illegal money to be made, walls really don’t stand in the way.

Walls are temporary fixes to long-term problems. They work for a limited amount of time. Once barriers are overcome, they become totally ineffective. And crooks and swindlers are always devising ways around, over or under walls.

I was thinking about my youthful caper of wall building the other day while listening to The Donald argue with Nancy and Chuck for the 20th time about his proposed concrete or steel barrier between the U.S. and Mexico on our southern border.

The idea of extending more miles of the wall may be a good one. I don’t know. It’s hard to get to the heart of a real solution because of all the partisan bickering.

But I do know that a wall should not be the issue that divides our government to the point where hundreds of thousands of federal workers are laid off and necessary government business is put on hold for weeks. Or where our popular parks and tourist sites are shut down.

That is selfish nonsense. No issue between elected officials should reach that point. This spectacle of the president at angry odds with congressional leaders is akin to three old bald people fighting over a comb.

Government shutdowns are never a good answer to political differences. Too many Americans get hurt in the struggle. The time is past due to end this record-breaking shutdown that hurts the very workers who are there to serve us. 

To keep the disagreement in perspective, walls do work for a while. But at some future point, all walls crumble and collapse, or are rendered useless. That’s what history teaches us.

We can build a wall, but it won’t last. Those we are walling out will find a way to get in. 

The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the massive wall around the Biblical city of Jericho, the wall around Constantinople, the Roman wall, Hadrian’s wall in England, the Jewish wall along the Palestinian border today — not one of them provided a permanent solution to keeping people out. 

Walls today exist as symbols of fear or failure, or both. In the long run of history, failed walls become popular tourist attractions. The Mexican border wall, including perhaps the Donald section, will one day join them. 

Poet Robert Frost put walls in the right perspective when he wrote “Mending Wall.”

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…that sends the frozen ground-swell under it…and spills the upper boulders in the sun…and makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

When spring rolled around in New England, the friendly property owners met and worked together to repair the gaps in their walls created by the cold winter. 

Frost adds, “Before I build a wall I’d ask to know…what I was walling in our walling out.”

In Trump’s case, we’d be walling out drug lords and gangsters, rapists and robbers. But we’d also be walling out good foreign citizens drawn here by the American dream.

If it’s to be a silly border wall that ends this stupid standoff, so be it. The Donald’s “art of the deal” is to hold out, however long, unless you get what you want. In this case, too many innocent federal workers are being thrown under the bus.

Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives in Phenix City. His email address is r.morris@ctvea.net.

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