A short history of walls

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


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.


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.