A short history of walls

Walls are not new to Americans. There used to be one on Wall Street.

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Some Ancient History

The Chinese built a wall. We know it as the Great Wall of China. They’ve had their wall for more than a thousand years. It didn’t keep out the Manchurians – they came in through a gate, and it didn’t keep out the Europeans – they came by boat. It’s probably been more successful as a tourist attraction than as a defensive barrier. In fact, they’re restoring parts of it so that we can marvel at the engineering feat that created it.

The Romans had some walls at the edges of their empire. Most of us have heard of Hadrian’s Wall, but they built another in Tunisia, with the primary purpose of maintaining pax romana so they could concentrate on taxing the prosperity of the locals. Neither wall saved the empire.

Some Modern History

The French had a wall. They built it after World War 1 and called it the Maginot Line. The Germans flew over it in World War 2.

The Soviets had a wall. We called it the Iron Curtain. This one was a bit different. It wasn’t designed to keep people out but rather to keep people in. It came down in 1989. They pulled it down themselves.

Today

The Israelis have a wall. You only have to watch the TV news to know how effectively that structure is maintaining peace and security. The Europeans can’t afford one but that hasn’t stopped some of their member states from putting up fences.

The Chinese are building an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, which is probably more at risk from climate change than the US Navy. It will be a lot less mobile than the US Seventh Fleet, and probably a lot less expensive to operate, but at least we’ll all know where it is.

People are cheering because Trump wants to build a wall between the USA and Mexico to keep the Mexicans in Mexico. He’s not satisfied with the existing fence. Maybe it’s got too many gaps because Congress decided not to continue funding the expansion of the so called high tech virtual fence in Arizona.

An interesting message from the Marines

The other night I was at the movies in New York. Before the movie started they showed a short film produced by the US Marine Corps, reminding us that all walls can be breached. You can watch it on You Tube.

Why do people think a wall is a good idea?

The answer is simple. If you build a wall you can point to it and say that you’re doing something about the problem.

Trouble is, building a wall will never solve the problem because migration is not the problem. Poverty and crime are the problem.

What needs to be addressed is the movement of narcotics across the border in one direction and of guns and money in the other. That will take a President and a Congress with the political courage to address the demand side of the drug problem in the US. (When did Nixon start the war on drugs?)

Helping the Mexicans to improve their quality of life at home will probably do more to stem the flow of people than building another wall.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, and Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

 

Letting go of guns

After writing my last post, I started wondering whether Americans would ever give up their attachment to their second amendment rights. Would they ever let go of their guns?

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As a frequent visitor to the United States, I’ve had the opportunity to listen in on some of the debates on gun control, and felt the frustration, I suspect many feel, with the lack of any real progress on the matter in Congress.

There is a process for changing the American Constitution. It has been changed in the past. After all, we are talking about rights attached to the second amendment to the Constitution.

Given the current state of play in the game called politics in the US, I don’t expect to see real change any time soon, despite the reported public support for some forms of gun control.

I live in a country with gun controls. Every gun owner and, consequently every gun, is required to be registered, and there are restrictions on the types of guns one can own. No semi-automatic or assault rifles or machines guns, for example.

We have some idea of how many guns there are in circulation and what type they are. That doesn’t stop people importing or smuggling in illegal firearms but, despite our rugged image, we do not have a gun culture.

I was surprised to read in The Blaze  that no-one actually knows how many guns there are in the US – it could be as many as 270 million – but there are about 3 million firearms of the types that need to be registered, including 488,000 machine guns, in the hands of the general public.

That’s a lot of guns. There’s only around 317 million people living in the United States.

Why would anybody own a gun?

The usual answers are for hunting, for sport and for protection.

I’m not sure what sort of hunting you’d do with a machine gun but, as someone with a little military experience, I can tell you they make one hell of a mess of a target on the range, and they’re good for killing people – which is their default purpose.

Who do Americans think they need so much protection from? From each other, apparently. If everybody else has a gun you need one to protect yourself, right? Or what about that line from the National Rifle Association after the Sandy Hook shooting?

‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.’

Sort of a catch 22, isn’t it.  The obvious answers is to put away the guns. It’s not the Wild West anymore. Like  Australians, most Americans live in cities. The gun is yesterday’s weapon. Today’s weapon is the smartphone.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some Americans are doing what Congress and the National Rifle Association seem unwilling to consider. According to a survey reported in the NY Times and other places, gun ownership in the USA has shown a decline over the last 40 years from around 50% of the population to around 30%.

It appears some Americans are willing to give up or not exercise their second amendment rights.

Sometimes you need to lead from below.

Thanks for dropping by, Peter