Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down. …
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
– Robert Frost, 1914
After watching John Oliver’s 20 March 2016 comic-news analysis on the proposed Border Wall, I remembered the lines in “Mending Wall“, the first poem I read by the great American poet Robert Frost. I have had experience with three border walls in recent years:
Israel-Palestine Wall – Bethlehem, 2016
Between the TechWomen Delegations to Jordan and Zimbabwe, last month a group of us visited Gaza and the West Bank in addition to more usual Israel-Palestine tourist locations such as Jerusalem and Masada. Bethlehem is a mixed Muslim-Christian city in the West Bank, typified for me by Manger Square, which has the Church of the Nativity at one end and the Mosque of Omar at the other. The wall runs through Bethlehem, in one case right around an existing home.
This wall is regularly a target location for violent confrontations between citizens and soldiers, one of which we regrettably observed from two blocks away, as we were preparing to leave the city. The wall is also a ground for artistic and political communication: it is covered with paintings and graffiti, including some by famous artists like Banksy. In a Bethlehem shop, we saw a traditional olive wood nativity scene – with the addition of a barrier wall keeping out the three wise men.
Berlin Wall Sections – Mountain View, California, 2010
Two graffitied sections of the 1961-1989 Berlin Wall lived in an office park near where I worked in Mountain View, California, for many years. I used to visit them sometimes during lunch, thinking of the people who died climbing the Berlin Wall trying to get to freedom. In 2013, the sections were moved to the front of the public library.
The original sign in front of these sections said: “…Between November 9 and 12, 1989 the Wall was breached; not from without with bombs or bullets, but from within by the sound of freedom and the vision of a better life that had drifted over the Wall. The World must not forget that it was America’s resolve and its political and economic ideals that made this bloodless revolution and most significant historical event possible.” I don’t know if that sign is still with the sections since they moved.
California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008
In 2008, my husband and I flew with friends to Baja California to see the grey whales at Laguna San Ignacio. Coming home, we got fuel and checked out with Mexican customs in Mexicali, then flew 9 miles north across the US border to check in at Calexico. The Calexico general aviation airport is directly on the USA-Mexico border fence. It was strange to see our two nations that are culturally and economically one family – with a line drawn between them.
Photos Copyright by Katy Dickinson 2008-2016