Perspective: Walls

Feb 12, 2019



Robert Frost’s neighbor told him “Good fences make good neighbours,” as they walked, each on his side of the wall, replacing the winter damaged stones. 


“Why do they make good neighbours?” Frost asks. “Isn’t it where there are cows? But here there are no cows. 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”. 


  Does a United States border wall make sense? The Great Wall of China, 13,171 miles of it, did not stop the raids by the Manchus, who eventually conquered China. 


Roman general Hadrian walled out Scotland because he couldn’t defeat the Picts and still lost his battle with them. 


The Japanese breached The Great Wall of China in 1933. 


The Gates of Alexander did not seal off the Caspian Sea. 


Ultimately a wall built to keep someone out fails. 


The ones that are built to keep someone in are no better: The Berlin Wall, The Iron Curtain, The Great Wall’s use to prevent the population of Beijing from leaving. 


A wall seals the builder in. An irony Frost appreciates in his poem: 


“I see him there 

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 

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." 


Frost intimates that the urge to build the Border Wall comes from a primordial dark place; that it is an unexamined act. I agree.  


I’m Karl Winkler and that is my perspective.