Originally Published: August 26, 2017 5:59 a.m.
Human history abounds with all kinds of walls built for all sorts of reasons, which is the essence of this column.
The Great Wall of China, originally built in BCE history and later during the Ming Dynasty, may be the oldest original wall still in existence, yet the Berlin Wall is probably the most known and bitterly remembered … by many of us!
For those who’ve forgotten or are too young to really know or care, post-World War II resulted in dividing West Germany between Great Brittan, the U.S. and France, known as the Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviet Union, already occupying the Eastern zone, considered East Germany its rightful war property, and when East Germany finally achieved sovereignty the Soviet Union continued to dominate East Germany as a communist society.
By August 1961 the Soviet Union unobtrusively built its first of several walls to keep dissatisfied East Germans within its eventual hundred-mile boundaries. West Berliners were flourishing by then, while the walled East Germans were suffering!
Finally in 1989, with mounting worldwide pressure, the “Berlin Wall” was torn down. It surprised East Germans on both sides of the wall and they joyfully joined in celebrating the wall’s destruction and open passage.
Nations throughout history have built walls for similar reasons, to either keep people in or keep them out. Either reason strongly suggests a xenophobic-type message that tends to thwart any compromised efforts to amalgamate or simply understand and get along with other groups.
The minions on either side of such walls may have succumbed to their leaders’ personal biases and negative influences. Then the outcome of walls too often becomes obstacles to expanding positive relationships with “those suspicious strangers.”
Despite our nation’s relatively brief existence for less than 300 years, the United States has become the most culturally rich, prosperous country on our planet. Our freely interactive populous of mixed ethnicity and race has everything to do with such success. Never actually walled-in, our country has truly thrived on a welcomed influx of grateful immigrants throughout the world.
History has constantly reminded us that walls create disastrous outcomes such as segregation, prejudice, and paranoia – all of which restrict any open interaction or democratic freedom. Perhaps that’s why I’m not surprised a “clinically antisocial megalomaniac” like President Trump “promises” to be a great wall builder keeping “dangerous” foreigners out of our democracy.
It may be ironic that we have always needed immigrants as much as they need us. In fact, walls tend to thwart any synergistic problem solving, while stifling progress with pervasive distrust of strangers.
Larry Wonderling, Ph.D., is a resident of Dewey.