The Wall – A Preliminary Discussion

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April 24, 2017

“An impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall”

Donald Trump’s campaign promise about a border wall is coming up to an important test, one that gives resistance an opportunity to take direct action. This Friday, 28 April, the budget resolution will be debated and possibly voted on in the House. In this, will be a line item for a massive appropriation for the Border Wall. Trump and Speaker Ryan, both wounded by the failure of the health care bill, are desperate for a win. Dismantling the Affordable Care Act is still a high priority and there may be efforts at sabotage by defunding in the budget bill. Their leverage, or so they believe, is that if the budget resolution fails, the government will shut down, something no one wants. Governments have things to do that people depend on.

The Wall issue is, in my view of things, an opportunity to erect a symbolic wall against one of Trump’s many cruel agendas and, by denying him the ability to fulfill one of his most inflammatory election promises, further weaken him. Resistance to Trump and the Republicans has a moral and ethical side to it and in my view, the Wall issue encapsulates that aspect of the struggle.

I urge you to communicate with your Representatives, even Democrats whom we can assume are opposed to the wall. They need to be encouraged to resist the Trump/Ryan extortion about shutting down the government. The Wall should not be funded. There are reasons that are ethical, moral, environmental, political, and practical. With the Friday deadline looming, the practical and political take precedence.

The border wall is a delusional fantasy, the product of self-aggrandizing would-be king who imagines his immortality will be assured not by great or good deeds or by acts of wisdom, but by great public works that bear his name. “My name is Donald Trump, king of kings, look upon my works yet mighty and despair,” to borrow from Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.”

Mockery would come to our rescue except for the fact that a Republican congress might just give him the money. The money circus around this project deserves to be noted. The Guardian sent a reporter to the 2017 Border Security Expo, April 10-12 in San Antonio, Texas.

“Everyone needs a tower,” said the tower booth guy. “Trusted technology for a tactical advantage,” said the Telephonics Corporation banner. “With this you can always communicate what the enemy is up to,” said the RolaTube vendor, flicking out a 23ft camouflaged antenna. There was a demonstration day and shooting contest involving “clearing a simulated building of bad guys” and “looking for well-armed coyotes along the trail.”

Coyotes, the guides who take border crossers to the line, are seldom, the Guardian notes, armed, Illicit border crossings are at historic lows, and most tend to be women and children from gang-infested Central American nations, who immediately surrender and seek asylum.

The scene on the exposition floor seems almost surreal. While salesmen, their would-be customers, and curious aficionados of weaponry admired the high-tech security gear, talking loudly about the “enemy” and “illegals,” waiters and janitorial staff, all of whom were Mexicans, circulated invisibly, pretending not to hear the slurs and the undertones of violence. Money, the expo makes clear, is to be made.

Big walls make for big profits. Some, however, have decided that they could forgo such tainted profits. CRH Group, the Irish building materials conglomerate, the largest player in the American cement construction market, has decided it will not participate. The Pope has come out, subtly, against the wall. The Mexican Church has condemned the wall more forcefully than did the Pope, calling it an affront to human dignity and that any Mexican company that participates will be guilty of treason.

Cemex, the huge Mexican cement conglomerate, has withdrawn from the bidding process. Initially Cemex said that they would participate in the wall project, but would not participate in the construction of “concentration camps.” Trump has demanded that the Mexicans accept the six million illegals that he plans to round up and deport and that they be held in “detention centers” on the Mexican side of the border. The Mexicans characterize these centers as “concentration camps” and have refused to build them.

And finally, Lafarge-Holcim, the world’s largest cement company, now Swiss, but originally a French company with a reputation for good social values, has said it will participate. The French government has said the company should “think carefully” about such a move and hinted at legal action. The city of Paris has canceled a contract with Lafarge as a statement of principle. If Lafarge participates, said the French prime minister, M. Cazeneuve, it would be a “wall of shame.”

There are no big league bidders for the cement. But Trump believes he can work miracles. He is a builder and can do deals. He says the cost will be 8 billion dollars. The GAO estimates 25 billion, with 750 million a year necessary to maintain it. Mexico, Trump says, will pay for it. The Mexicans say “no way.” So Trump proposes to impose a border tax on Mexican imports: the cost of which will pass through to American consumers and will be felt immediately in the supermarket produce aisles. What? No winter strawberries! But no matter. Trump promised.

Some experts say even 25 billion is too low. Remember the invasion and occupation of Iraq: the Bush administration told congress that the cost would be 50-60 billion dollars. The GAO now estimates the cost to have been 2.5 trillion dollars. The Bush administration assured congress that it would be paid for by oil revenues; A massive fraud. We are witnessing another. But congressional and the peoples’ memories are short and there is a whole new set of legislators.

There are serious national needs that could be addressed with money in these staggering amounts. The Northeast Rail Corridor is on the verge of collapse. A recent New York Times article put the absurdity of the wall into fiscal perspective.

Absurdities abound. For nearly 900 miles the border is marked by a line that runs down the middle of the Rio Grande river, from El Paso to the Gulf. Half in the US and half in Mexico. How will the wall planners and deal makers cope with this? Chain link fencing down the middle of the river (the Rio Grande is a Wild River through the Big Bend National Park, protected by federal law and treaty with Mexico). Or perhaps a zig-zag wall, a mile of river in the US and mile in Mexico and so on.

The most absurd idea of all is that it will protect America from drugs. Trump’s tweet of today was about drugs and “poisoning our youth.” Where there is demand and money to be made, a supply will be found. The wall would be effective against young families with children who, fleeing the violent neighborhoods of Salvador and Honduras, managed, with heroic effort, to get that far. They, indeed, would be stopped by the” tall, powerful, and beautiful southern border wall. “ But not drugs. Below is a photo of Congressman Steve King, a rabid anti-Mexican crusader, showing his idea of the wall to the New Homeland Security secretary. I urge you to pick up your phone. Help kill this monstrosity.

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