Like “Facebook” and “Google,” words yet to be coined mere years ago, the word “wall” has seeped into my consciousness. Mention “wall” and I think of Donald Trump. I’m not alone.
Recently I was watching “Barcelona,” a 1994 film set in the post-Cold War eighties that is both a visual paean to the city and an affectionate look at the mores, attitudes, and culture of its inhabitants as seen through the eyes of two American twenty-somethings, embodiments of Mark Twain’s “innocents abroad.”
Early on, Ted Boynton, an American salesman based in Barcelona, is chauffeuring Fred, his recently arrived Naval officer cousin, around town. With Ted’s narrative the soundtrack for the nighttime tour, the camera focuses first on the magnificent Barcelona Cathedral then on the remnants of the old Roman wall, both gloriously awash in light.
Resisting the urge to book the next flight, I turned instead to Google for enlightenment.
According to Wikipedia, perimeter walls fortified the forerunner of modern Barcelona since the time of Augustus Caesar. Later, fortifications were substantially improved following raids by Germanic tribes around 250. A new double wall at least two meters high, up to eight meters in some parts, punctuated by seventy-eight towers measuring up to eighteen meters high, protected the city.
Two millennia later it remains an imposing sight. Many Spanish cities were born as fortified strongholds, Toledo, Avila, Lugo, and Trujillo to name a few. Europe likewise is home to dozens of walled cities.
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications built along the historical northern borders of China to separate China from nomadic empires to the north. According to Wikipedia other purposes of the Great Wall included border controls, and the control of immigration and emigration
(emphasis mine). Several walls were built as early as the 7th century BCE. The majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
On this side of the Atlantic, Quebec and Toronto were originally walled cities. The Ramparts of Quebec City are the only remaining fortified walls in North America north of Mexico. Interestingly, Mexico City is one of four Mexican cities with defensive walls.
Clearly, border walls are not newborn imaginings of Trump’s fevered mind. Nor touristy artifacts of the past.
Precipitated by bloodshed in the Middle East, history is beginning to repeat itself.
CNN reports that construction will begin soon on a "big new wall" in the French port city of Calais to prevent refugees and migrants from entering Britain, the UK has announced. The four-meter (13 foot) high wall is part of a £17 million ($23 million) deal struck between Britain and France earlier this year to try to block migrants from crossing the English Channel. "We've done the fence. Now we're doing a wall," British Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill announced at a September government hearing.
Ironically, some influential Mexicans are talking about building a great wall on its southern border with Central America to stem the tide of Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Hondurans fleeing violence in their own countries.
Trump’s opponents attempt to portray him as a racist, radical xenophobe when in reality, whether by accident or design, he has become the voice of everyday Americans expressing their desire to live, work, play, and raise their families in peace.
Toward that end, history is on his side.