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THINKING ALLOWED


Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Forever Building Walls

North Miami Beach, FL 07-04-2005
A.H. Schectman

One particularly frightening image that I see in these days of increasing emphasis on conformity with faith based political correctness is masses of evangelical Christians and Fundamentalists of all beliefs standing at the wall separating them from control of our country with their pikes, spears, axes and hammers waiting for the signal to tear down that wall.

Walls came along with civilization. Such walls as the wall between Church and State, the Great Wall of China, The Security Fence between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors; metaphoric walls where good fences make good neighbors, guards at entrances in walls separating wealth from likely predators; walls and doors enclosing us and fending off intruders; old railroad tracks and highways that limit the neighborhoods of us “good” folks – separating us from the poor and crime – these are some of the benefits of civilization.

When we were a young species we took refuge in caves whose walls are ready made.  We looked for south facing entrances and cracks and holes in the ceiling to allow smoke from our fires to escape without poisoning us.  Later, we built “caves” freestanding out of animal parts (bones, tusks and skins) and much, much later, took to piling stones on stones to make little fortresses or shelters finally adding roofs and entrances and exits.  We are a species that trusts in walls (now steel and concrete) and in some ways emulate the Babel Tower. By some twist in irony, the pyramids in Egypt were built to keep intact their mummies of kings and emperors – but all these walls were subject to being pulled down, either by men or by gravity.

We are forever building walls, keeping what we value inside and repelling danger and unrest outside.  We have not learned the knack of educating the least of us so they understand that building walls can be an art and ornament to our society.  The unfortunate part of building is that it benefits so few and so few are allowed to participate in ownership.

I remember the man I saw daily, who single-handedly dug out a basement, pulling up earth out wheelbarrow full by wheelbarrow.  It took him months and months later he had laid cement blocks to create walls pushing away earth and water. On top of this he built wooden frameworks for walls and rooms and eventually he put on a roof – all by himself.

I saw his efforts each day passing by on my way to work.  He didn’t seem to have blueprints or permits, but this was over fifty years ago and we are still forever building walls.  It is almost forty years ago that my Condominium apartment was strongly built of concrete.  Yet there is talk that even condos like this one that displaced early houses by original settlers, will one day give way to high rise towers housing an elite who will enjoy the lakes on either side of where we live.

And, so on into the future there will rise over the mounds of earlier attempts to protect what is inside using our walls to hide behind.

 


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