The Wall is arguably Mr. Trump’s single most important symbol. He launched his campaign by saying that only a wall could save us from the drug dealing, crime infested, rapists that Mexico was sending us. Of course, these assertions are gross stereotypes with no evidence. We know the wall (both in concept and practice) will not work. As conservative and immigration expert David David Bier points out,“The wall is more than a symbol. It will harm the lives of thousands of border residents and immigrants while wasting billions of tax dollars.”
We know many if not most undocumented immigrants enter legally and overstay their visas. A wall does nothing for that. We know drugs come into the border through many means. A wall will do little or nothing to stop that flow. We know those who do come to this country do not cause crime at higher rates than those who are born here.
There are all kinds of myths about immigration that have been debunked by groups like The George W. Bush Presidential Center and others. Yet Mr.Trump and millions of Americans still hold the wall as a high priority. Mr. Trump has even shutdown the government over his own party’s wishes unless the wall is partially funded by the taxpayers. Why? Because it is a symbol of the fears his base believes. The fears that the country has changed for the worse. That only nationalism, nativism and a strong hand will restore the order.
Liberals keep shaking their heads in dismay. Asking questions like, “Why build the wall if we don’t need it and can’t pay for it?” The problem is they don’t understand the real issue. The lies Mr. Trump tells about terrorist pouring into the southern border and drugs flooding the country are salient because they feel true even if they are not.
There are millions of Americans who feel threatened, fearful and left behind. They suffer from a poverty of curiosity, ideas and intellect and are plagued by an abundance of hyperbolic, fear mongering provocateurs. Fox News and talk radio confirm their inclinations that we live in a world where they are threatened, undervalued, overlooked and mocked by liberal elites. A world where the old guard who once stood as a sentinels, guarding them from the outsiders bent on destroying all they have worked for, is now threatened by the “new face” of America. They share a fear and hostility of taxes, regulations, foreigners and anything that threatens their perception of the how things used to be.
Just as the Statue of Liberty stands as a symbol of freedom, hope and liberty to those who are willing to pioneer to a new land and work for new opportunities, the wall is a symbol of strength, power and protection from the forces that would change what they perceive America was. So to the liberals, fair minded conservatives, and others who don’t understand why Mr. Trump and his supporters must have a wall, let me suggest this. If you want to see a world with more bridges and fewer walls you may need to start building bridges with those who demand walls.
As conservative columnist David Brooks recently observed,
“We’re enjoying one of the best economies of our lifetime. The gross domestic product is growing at about 3.5 percent a year, which is about a point faster than many experts thought possible. We’re in the middle of the second-longest recovery in American history, and if it lasts for another eight months it will be the longest ever….And yet are we happy? About 60 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country. Researchers with the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index interviewed 160,000 adults in 2017 to ask about their financial security, social relationships, sense of purpose and connectedness to community. Last year turned out to be the worst year for well-being of any since the study began 10 years ago….So why the long faces? the biggest factor is the crisis of connection. People, especially in the middle- and working-class slices of society, are less likely to volunteer in their community, or to go to church, or to know their neighbors, or to be married than they were at any time over the past several decades. In short, they have fewer resources to help them ride the creative destruction that is ever-present in a market economy.…There’s an interesting debate going on in conservative circles over whether we have overvalued total GDP growth in our economic policy and undervalued programs that specifically foster dignity-enhancing work. The way I see it is this: It’s nonsense to have an economic policy — or any policy — that doesn’t account for and address the social catastrophe happening all around us. Every single other issue exists under the shadow of this one. Conservatives were wrong to think that economic growth would lead to healthy families and communities all by itself. Moderate Democrats were wrong to think it was sufficient to maximize growth and then address inequalities with transfer payments. The progressives are wrong to think life would be better if we just made our political economy look more like Denmark’s. The Danes and the Swedes take for granted a cohesive social fabric that simply does not exist here….
It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.”
I couldn’t agree more! Of course we don’t need a wall. Of course it is gross symbol of racism and isolationism. What we need is to better understand and confront the fears that make a the need for a wall feel paramount to so many. That is going to take time, effort and a lot of bridge building.