Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One Common Approach to Addressing Discomforts of Diversity

Great Wall of China
Walls. I've been thinking (and writing) about walls. Not the Great Wall of China but . . .
Birwood Wall
The Birwood Wall, in Detroit, makes an appearance in my novel Grand River and Joy. In book discussions, it's gotten a lot of people talking and a lot of people stirred up. This wall was built so that white Detroiters (and builders and bankers and so on) would feel more secure investing in homes that were close to primarily black neighborhoods. Here's another famous wall:
Berlin Wall
And another:
Wall on U.S.-Mexico Border
And another:
A wall can be a beautiful thing, complex, evocative:
Stone Wall
It can contain and exclude, protect and isolate:

Fortress Wall
Yesterday, on NPR's Marketplace, I heard an item about walls, referred to as "separation barriers," which is a good way to think of them. A person named Niall Farell produced a documentary about these separation barriers in which he lists many of them. Here are just a few from his list, with dimensions and type.

Name: Baghdad Wall
Country: Iraq
Built year: Under construction
Length: 5 km
Type: Civil pacification

Name: Belfast Peace Lines
Country: Northern Ireland
Built year: 1970s
Length: .5 km
Average type: Civil pacification

Name: Ceuta Border Fence
Country: Spain/Morocco
Built year: 2001
Length: 8 km
Type: Anti-illegal immigration

Name: China-North Korea Barrier
Country: China/North Korea
Built year: Under construction
Length: 1,416 km
Type: Anti-illegal immigration

Name: Egypt-Gaza Barrier
Country: Egypt/Palestinian Territories
Built year: 1979
Length: 3.071 km
Type: Anti-terrorism and illegal immigration
We all know that walls can be scaled--some more easily than others.

So many things more to be said about walls, about separation, about barriers, about the ancient yearning for a sense of safety and security.

4 comments: said...

Ah, those walls again and another reminder about Robert Frost's poem about fences making good neighbors.

Walls can be lines drawn on cement too, as in hop-scotch, or walls drawn for athletes or traffic directions.

"The Wall", a rock opera by Pink Floyd is about the falling of the Berlin Wall.

Harry Bernstein's book, "The Invisible Wall" is a masterpiece written when he was 96. Although the wall he talks about is invisible, it is easily seen.

Your current blog creates so many thoughts about walls. Thank you.

Susan Messer said...

Thanks. I always wondered about "fences making good neighbors." it's such a loaded statement, about the difficulty of trusting, the limits of friendship. There are (ineffective) walls in Romeo and Juliet and the Fantastiks.

Jody said...

Listened to Tom Petty today singing "even walls fall down." Then I read your blog and comments. Thanks for giving us so many things to think about, and reminding us that thinking is a good thing.

Susan Messer said...

And thanks to you, Jody, for reading and for being a fan of thinking.