Don’t forget the walls that came before Trump’s

Turns out, you can pick your family

Turns out, you can pick your family

By Arabella Breck

“A physical wall between two seemingly different groups of people that in theory would have brought peace, but instead exacerbated conflict.”

This is more than a description of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which he recently signed an executive order to create. This is déjà vu. Throughout history, a multitude of walls have been built and proven ineffective, yet somehow Trump didn’t consider this as he signed the executive order. 

The Berlin Wall, which was in place from 1961 until it was completely torn down in 1992, is one of the most iconic examples of physical divisiveness in modern history. 

However, there are walls outside of Germany that are still in place today. Although it was ruled in violation of international law in 2004 by the International Court of Justice, Israelis have continued to construct a wall along the West Bank to separate the Israeli and Palestinian people. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been called the world’s most controversial conflict, and there is no evidence that the construction of an illegal wall has done anything to remedy the situation.

Northern Ireland recently began the process of tearing down the walls that separated Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast since 1969. Ironically named the Peace Walls, the walls were meant to foster peace and stability between the two groups that have historically been in disagreement, but they did not accomplish that. The walls are due to be completely gone by 2023, according to an Aug. 23, 2016, article from The Journal. 

What all these walls have in common, including Trump’s, is that they were intended as protective measures. East Germany wanted to protect itself from the threat of West Berlin and the western world. The Israelis want to protect themselves from the Palestinians. The Catholics and Protestants wanted to protect themselves from each other. Now, Trump wants to protect Americans from the “drugs,” “crime” and “rapists” that he thinks are coming from Mexico. 

The Berlin Wall is already long gone, and while Northern Ireland is moving toward tearing walls down, Trump wants to put a new one up. 

The U.S. can and should do better when it comes to international policy, and doing better will not start with building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that will cost Americans—not Mexico—billions of dollars.

Even Trump’s own Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly knows this wall will not be effective.  He was quoted in a Jan. 25 New York Times article saying a “physical barrier will not do the job.” He explained that more than a wall was needed for border control. Even recognizing the simplicity of a wall as a solution to border control issues shows he is at least somewhat aware of how conflict and border issues work. 

Not only have physical borders been proven inviable to resolving conflict already, the idea of a wall is infantile. Children can think of putting  a barrier between themselves and something they are scared of or don’t like. It takes maturity to hypothesize and implement creative and plausible ways to positively impact international relations.