Wall — another four letter word in the English language.
An item that divides rather than unites, that separates rather than assembles, yet it can support a house or a temple when built for that purpose.
Somebody, always, must pay for the wall.
A wall has run through me all my life — a symbolic wall, hard as nails.
When I lived in Romania the world was split by the Iron Curtain. Not a ‘wall,’ mind you, but only a ‘curtain’ (of course, part of it was the Berlin wall, a physical barrier of concrete and barbed wire). The curtain was meant to keep ideas apart; to keep music apart; art; literature; religion; science; philosophy; to keep people apart. And it wasn’t just the East longing for what was on the other side. Traffic was controlled both ways.
Yet any barrier, not matter how formidable, has imperfections. There are cracks in the wall. There are tunnels, hidden doors, ladders, and smugglers that take you to the other side. Planes fly over. And the ideas go through. People go through. Even American jeans went through. What one side invested in the effort of building, the other side made its goal to destroy. Despite the curtain, in those days in Romania, we listened to The Beatles. We read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. We read The Gulag Archipelago and Doctor Zhivago. Radio Free Europe was on in most homes. We wanted to have honest, interesting lives.
Then I ‘escaped’ to the West and the US ‘paid for me.’ Invariably it comes down to paying. For each man, woman or child who managed to find a path, the West paid 5,000 dollars, give or take. Not paper money, but favors and secret deals. Immigration has never been a walk in the woods. Even though, as a political refugee, I represented the triumph of one ideology over the other, I waited months in Greece to be vetted. To check me out, the Americans worked closely with the Romanian secret police.
For a while the wall (or the curtain) that was shaping my life continued to remain as strong as before. Part of my family was here and part was not. It was painful. Our letters were censored. Phone calls were bugged. It got to a point where my family over there asked me for food.
Then Berlin exploded, and the wall came crushing down. The world shook, the curtain disappeared, and a new wind traversed the globe from one end to the next. Unimpeded. We were moving as one.
But that can’t last forever. After all, we are people: vulgar, simple-minded, thin-skinned. We want to leave our mark.
So now we are building our own wall on the border with Mexico. We claim it will separate us from something. We cannot specify from what.
We love to say our country is the greatest. Then we add quickly we have many issues to solve. The premise that our problems are caused by the striving immigrants from the South is a myth. It is mean-spirited, naïve, and false. It represents our second wall, that of misinformation and illusions. Clearly we haven’t learned from the past. No wall that is meant to divide is a beautiful thing.
What walls defined your life? Comment, like, and share, please.