Good fences, bad fences

This morning on NPR, Daniel Schorr opined about fences and walls. He quoted liberally from the classic Robert Frost poem (a poet that, as a New Hampshirite, I am legally required to be very familiar with), and discussed some famous walls in recent history: the Berlin wall, the planned walls in Baghdad, a potential fence along the US southern border, Israel’s walls along the Palestinian territories, and so on. His conclusion: they tend to be bad.

It was a very simplistic explanation, but just a little too simple. I think I can take Mr. Schorr’s idea (one that has a lot of support, I’ve noticed) and improve on it, make it more accurate with just the slightest modification:

Bad walls keep people in. Good walls keep people out.

The Berlin Wall was not intended to defend against an invasion. It was a prison wall. Its defenses were all aimed at those contained within it, to keep them from fleeing. And if they tried, they were killed — and the bodies often left where they fell as grim reminders.

The other walls are the opposite type. They are designed to keep people out.

More specifically, to keep those who are outside of it to only enter in certain places, where entry can be regulated. The people within the walls have decided that unrestrained entrance is dangerous to them, and wish to impose some controls on who comes in — and how.

And in all three cases, with good reason.

One of the most fundamental definitions of a nation is clearly-defined borders. And one of the most fundamental rights of any nation is to control those borders, to be the arbiter of who can and can not enter.

Walls are not lovely things. They are not nice things. But they are necessary things.

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