Something there is that doesn’t love a wall… One on a side. It comes to little more: There, where it is, we do not need the wall I tell him… He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors?…
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. …and I’d rather He saw it for himself…”
Excerpts from Robert Frost’s Mending Fence
In America right now, we have labored on our own invisible, impenetrable metaphorical wall. Berlin-like it separates us, right from left, liberal from conservative, Democrat from Republican, urban from rural, coast from heartland, rich from poor, ordinary from elite. Yet, unlike the Germans when divided by concrete, many of us express little desire to surmount it or bring it down, justifying our own side of the divide.
Embracing the concept like Frost’s neighbor, we seek to wall out our fears by building ever higher fences between “us” and “them” and when the barrier shows signs of erosion, we build it back again in the minds of our families and friends.
When others attempt to tear down walls between religions and races, between cultures and communities, between political parties and ideologies, this is portrayed as creating danger to the “American way of life” or as political correctness run amok.
But the way of life many seek to protect exists only in the idealized past, the booming era when hard labor could lead to home-ownership, and work in mines, in auto plants, in steel mills, in factories brought middle-class entrance and abundance.
It was an age of dignity for every “average Joe and Jane’ that’s largely gone today. Displaced, many on the right have come to believe it is the stranger, the “illegal,” or immigrant here, or those in countries overseas that are shoving them aside, taking their place…or that the “educated left elite” in America, missing the contributions they made, who have declared them unnecessary or unemployable.
Sadly, just as evolution didn’t stop with the dinosaurs, technology did not stop with the assembly line. It is relentless. STEM advances will make ever more jobs obsolete. To survive, we will all have to keep step with that evolution.
And the jobs that are going unfilled in America today, that would bring a good income, often cannot be filled by either the high school grad, or the debt-burdened Baccalaurean with a liberal arts degree. Rather workers with advanced training in technologies or Associate Degrees from Technical or Community Colleges are being sought. Both sides must face this future.
On the left side of the wall, fences are often favored as well.
Concern for not excluding others evolves into a litmus test of the uniqueness of the pain. Political correctness can even exclude Jewish lesbians from a gay pride march because Israel walls out Palestinians. Fences built on that side limit the “freedom” of free speech barring thoughts by conservatives as contrary to liberal beliefs, yet insist on their right to fully express their view. We all lose when this happens.
Still, neither side wants to come together to find answers. Stones keep being thrown: slurs, epithets, stigmatizing labels. Can we not disagree about a policy or a position, an idea or an ideology, without debasing the person expressing it? Not everyone is a terrorist, a liberal elite, or a neanderthal conservative.
Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you has become: Do to others what you think they did or what they might do…get even, hit back. Or worse: Knock others down (with anger and words), launch pre-emptive strikes before they can…because of course, we know who THEY are, we know what THEY think, what THEY will say, what THEY will do.
But I keep hearing Frost…”something there is that does not love a wall.” Will that axiom hold true?
This week brought a few calls for bipartisanship in our Congress. Can our leaders re-assert the idea that the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts…that our Founders got it right in believing there is strength in accepting the contributions of every viewpoint, that compromise is more lasting than confrontation and division, that what made America great was standing united and finding common ground to meet upon.
It is time to make a commitment to that goal before more harm is done to our world. This post is my endorsement and my first step in that direction. Will you help me build bridges instead of fences? Together we can bring down the walls between us.