Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Something There Is That Doesn't Love a Wall" [and yet, we keep building them...]

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall," said Robert Frost in his 1914 poem Mending Wall. Writing on the brink of the WW-I, the American poet was probably conscious of the walls that were being built between countries in Europe and Eastern-Europe while he was composing his poem... And yet at, the same time, walls were being destroyed (houses, boundaries, countries, walls of fraternity, walls of humanity, walls of dignity...) and others were being built in the shape of the giant body of the 70 million military personnel being deployed to go to war.

A century later, we are still building the same walls. Now they cement themselves in the bricks of our skin-colour, in the solidity of our sexuality, in the slabs of our political views, in the stones of who we are and the concrete of what we think. On those walls, we sublimate our urges for defecation by naming the same walls that we built, by tagging them with graffiti: 'war on terror', 'collateral damage', 'national security'...

How far removed are we from Berlin's Wall of Shame? Twenty years after it was brought down, does the shame live on while the bricks have disappeared? The violence of spaces, of what is allowed in and what is allowed out, of "good fences make good neighbours," of what protects 'us' and 'them' and what protects 'us' from 'them'...

... And this is how on January 11th, the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu has given his approval to build a wall along the border between Israel and Egypt. With the help of increased surveillance, the walls aims at keeping "infiltrators and terrorists" out of the Israeli state. Mr Netanyahu also added that the erection of the wall "is a strategic decision to secure Israel's Jewish and democratic character."

About 50-60 % of the Israeli borders are already fenced: the borders with Gaza, with Lebabon, with Jordan, and most of the West Bank. The cost of the project? $ 270 million. And while it should take two years to complete, the world may again sit and watch as yet another wall is being built and yet other 'good neighbours' are being made.

Read the full story here on Al Jazeera.


And here's Robert Frost's Poem: Mending Wall (1914)

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? 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.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. 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 neighbors."

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