An American Iron Curtain

We are creating an American Iron Curtain

US Mexico border fence with barbed wire

When I was a boy growing up in the sixties and seventies, the only places we got our news was radio, TV & the newspaper. Being young, I wasn’t much on reading because I was having a difficult time learning the language. English is not the easiest language in the world to learn. Some of the rules still don’t make much sense, so, as a kid, I mainly just stuck with TV, and even then I wasn’t much interested in the news. Grown-up TV was scary.

The John F. Kennedy assassination, then the Bobby Kennedy assasination, Martin Luther King & Malcolm X murdered too, the Vietnam war, Watergate, the civil rights riots, the Black Painters.

And that was just in this country.

The news coming out of Russia was even scarier. People who disagreed with the government disappeared, the KGB was out to get everyone, The Gulag or forced labor and torture camps sounded like hell on earth,  their highly censored media, and severely restricted travel and career paths. Our freedoms were as countless as the stars at night and you could thank heaven for growing up in this wonderful country.

For a long time (all throughout the Cold War) it seemed as if our whole national identity revolved around how superior we were to the Soviet Union, the number 2 world power at the time. We compared ourselves to Russia in almost everything: who had the most gold medals in the olympics, the first man in space, the first satellite in orbit, the first man on the moon, the most nuclear weapons. . . and of course, we compared our cultures; we had freedom– they didn’t.

In America, you could go anywhere you wish, freely, and without restriction.  In the USSR,  you needed travel papers before leaving your state, or entering another. In the USSR if you were born into a farmer’s family, you would grow up to be a farmer too. In America you could grow up to be whatever you wanted to be.

In America our society thrived on diversity. We imported some of the best minds from around the globe and became a super power because of it. In the USSR their lack of diversity, and their rigid control of everything, kept growth, innovation, and prosperity to a minimum.

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In the USSR there were very scary structures like the Berlin wall, that symbolized their leader’s fear of freedom and transparency.

This wall served two physical purposes:

  1. To keep their own people in,
  2. To keep meddling westerners and their ideas out.

The wall had social, emotional, psychological and philosophical effects on those living on both sides of the border too. Families were separated, many people were unable to return to their jobs or their homes, and the desire to leave grew more intense for those who found themselves trapped within.

In the USA we can come and go as we see fit. The world is our playground.

iron-curtain-europeIn the sixties and seventies we were told, in school and in the news, that people trying to get in or out through the Berlin wall were shot and killed by guards in towers. They had bright search lights to find people trying to get in or out in the dark of night. The images we were shown were cold and loveless and this wall, as well as all the other walls set up to segregate the west from the USSR, were given a cold and loveless name, “The Iron Curtain.” Just the sound of it coming out of the TV was enough to create nightmares in your dark and silent room at night. This was definitely something we would never do to our people.  This wall was evil, and so were the controlling ideologies behind it.

It was something that should be stopped.

Growing up in the USA may have given me a slightly biased point of view regarding much of what we were told and shown, but many of the facts were quite visible; such as the Berlin Wall itself, its guard towers, search lights, and armed guards, barbed wire, dogs, minefields. A lot of thought, time, energy and money went into the creating and maintaining of this security system.

Today I find the news equally as disturbing as when I was a child. Millions of Americans are living nightmares that we are creating for ourselves. We are building a fence between our country and Mexico for many of the same reasons the Russians did in East Germany and all along the Soviet Union’s borders with NATO countries. Today we are deploying more than just armed border agents, some dogs and a big fence. We also have ground sensors, spotlights, double walls separated by many yards of open space, barbed wire, and even drones. There is talk of sending the National Guard to the border. The techniques of the past with the weapons of today.

We are spending more per year on border security than in any other single government agency. We aim to keep people out of our more prosperous nation and protect ourselves from the percieved negative influences of Mexico and beyond.

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We, too, are dividing families and communities that once moved freely back and forth from Mexico to the US and back again. Many migrant workers who used to come north during harvest season and go back home to Mexico when the harvesting is done, are now forced to either stay here in the US for fear of not being able to return to work when the picking seasons start up again, or stay in Mexico and search for new places to live and new means of sustaining the family.

Going back to the early sixties and seventies and the Berlin wall, even with all of the money and effort and labor that went into that fortification, it was far from 100% effective. It is said there were around 2,000 people who escaped through the wall. There were always people looking for ways to get something in, or smuggle something out. It is estimated that around 200 people were killed trying to escape.

So far, aside from the anonymous postings of hateful cowards, few people have publicly said they were in favor of shooting people trying to immigrate to the United States like they did in Germany and in various other countries in the Soviet bloc. “Joe the Plumber”  is a notable exception, and some so-called Patriots on the Mexico-American border. Herman Cain spoke of electrifying the border fence, but he quickly back-pedaled when called on it.

Someone should tell Joe, Herman, and all those “Patriot” nuts at the border that the Berlin wall has come down. It was viewed as a testament to the failure of Communism as well as the relentless attraction of Democracy, a sign that all men seek freedom and self-determination as a meaningful and important part of human nature that cannot be separated from us by any man made object.

President Ronald Reagan gave a speech shortly before the wall was taken down. He criticized the wall and pushed for its destruction. In that speech was a simple philosophy behind such idea:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.”

6/12/87 President Ronald Reagan

That would also mean it would be analogous to say prohibiting human liberty would be anathema to world peace, too.

Are the anti-immigration reform people opposed to World Peace, because a good part of their platform doesn’t seem to support that idea very much.

The old Soviet Union is far from the only country that tried and failed to overly control it’s citizens. There are many other examples of a failed fortified stance against immigration/emigration.

Every day there are news reports of security breaches in the Israel-Gaza wall, the Egypt-Gaza wall, and once in a while someone infiltrates or escapes from North Korea.

No wall ever built has been 100% effective at keeping people in or out.

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The great wall of China, arguably the largest, longest living, and most expensive border security barrier ever built, failed to keep many invaders out. It is a living testament for the entire world that erecting barriers to keep people out of one area or another does not work, and it stands as proof positive that you can spend all the money you want and take centuries to build something, but you still won’t prevent the entry of people who are determined to get in. Not even the walls and moats surrounding relatively tiny pieces of real estate, such as castles and forts kept people out who were highly motivated to get in. We have tried for aeons to fence things off and keep people out or keep them in. Prisons have escapees. Alcatraz was hugely successful, having a strong current and  hundreds of yards of bay surrounding their fences and guard towers, yet a few people escaped from there too.

Even if we were to figure out how to build an Alcatraz like system all along the 2000 miles of border between the US and Mexico, and even if we had the money to build it, that is not the only access point that is vulnerable to people wanting in or out of our country. We have airports, shipping ports, thousands of miles of coastlands, as well as our border to the north with Canada, and our Hawaiian Islands as well as the thousands of Islands in and around our country. It would take generations of Americans working full-time and many trillions of tax dollars to fortify all of our access points. It would take untold billions of dollars to install security systems capable of monitoring every person’s movement, and billions to install devices on each citizen or visitor within our country to ensure they have a right to be here.

Which brings up a very important question: What would a 100% secure America look like? Prison? East Germany? The Gaza strip? Israel? Would you want your children to grow up in a place like this? Would you want to live in even a colorful, sunshiny prison? Where would we vacation, on a beautiful sandy beach surrounded by high fences with concertina wire and armed guards in towers with spotlights at night?

If the old USSR isn’t a good enough reminder for us that isolation is a nation killer, we will surely follow in their footsteps, walling off our nation and isolating ourselves from much of the outside world, stifling innovation, killing our economy and relegating us to the land “formerly known as the USA.” We will have to watch as a new super power emerges to lead us into the 21st or 22nd century.

Is this the legacy we want to leave behind?

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Do we want to be known as the generation that lead to the end of our status as the leader of the free world?

If you would like to prevent this from happening, please enter your email address and become a part of the movement that seeks to end this un-American ideal. Join me and the thousands of other people working to ensure we leave a healthy, vibrant country to our children and grandchildren. They will thank us for it.

 

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