The thing about walls…

George Carlin was a master of words, coaxing and massaging them like a poet. He liked to take them to extremes to show us how silly we can be. Being the edgy comedian, the words he usually mused were often those that couldn’t be said on television! And he did ponder how some words came to be verboten. In the (anti)social media, we’ve seen once descriptive words become labels and sadly devolve to pejoratives. When a mundane word takes on gargantuan proportions, I suspect George would have had a few words of his own on the matter, maybe asking: When did “Wall” become so divisive? (I couldn’t resist…)

It’s just a word. Such a friendly sounding word. Sometimes we want to be a fly on the wall. We’ll throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. People can be on the fence, which is sort of a wall, about something. Humpty Dumpty sat on one – though that didn’t work out so well for him (curiously, nowhere was it ever mentioned that he was an egg…well, curiously to me.)  When we’ve overdone it, we might find ourselves hitting the wall. Frustrated? beat your head against the wall.I’m sure most of us have seen the writing on the wall at some point. People even put writing in a wall…but it is a special wall.


Kids without enough stimulus can be climbing the walls. Then there’s that guy who drives you up a wall. Ever try to nail Jello to a wall?

We have walls of fame, walls of shame,… memorial walls. We put up walls of silence. Stubbornness leads somebody to think “it’s like talking to a brick wall“. Trying times might find you with your back against the wall. To get out of them, you may have to go balls to the wall.

Game of Thrones has a Yuge wall that’s supposed to keep the bad guys out of the good guys spaces (but if you’ve read any of the books or seen any of the shows, you know that the good guy side is the messed up one.) Denny Crane and Alan Shore, Frank Underwood, and the Deadpool guy routinely break the fourth wall.

Gosh, if these walls could talk! (Because, after all, the walls have ears.)

So… Walls…

A wall, with (usually) three others holds up a roof, and is there to keep undesirable environments (rain, cold, and for those of me who live in Texas…heat and humidity) out and preferred environments in – after all…air conditioning costs money!

The problems come when people want to use one for a different purpose.

1280px-Chemin_de_ronde_muraille_longSome 2,200 years old, one wall is quite famous. While some of the older parts are simple, Ming Emperors are credited with constructing the largest and most elaborate sections of The Great Wall beginning around 650 years ago.

That Wall was largely intended to keep the northern world out more than anything else, but as impressive as it is (I admit this is overly reductionist), it pretty much took 1500 years for the Chinese to overcome the self-imposed isolation.

Berlin wallEast Germany built a wall in 1961 to keep their Germans from running to the other Berlin. In 1987, in one of his rare moments of lucidity, Reagan urged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down that wall”.

Two years later, on November 9th, 1989, it did figuratively come down (deconstruction was later.) Almost a year after that, East Germany came down as well. And the people were free..sort of.

Roger Waters’ Pink kept adding bricks of fear, oppression, dysfunction, more fear, and depression and built a metaphorical wall to isolate himself. He ended up nearly insane and forced himself to “tear down the wall”…and he was free…to probably start the cycle all over.


That Wall didn’t work out so great either. But it made for great music.

While a 2,000 mile wall might not be the dumbest idea I’ve heard in a long time, it is down there with some of the worst. I seriously doubt the $35 billion – a bleeping huge number for sure – is anywhere near what it could really take. I’ve built things in remote places. Raw materials cost a lot more to transport to locations where they aren’t. Labor costs a lot more to bring to and support in unpopulated places (of the US). And one thing people unaccustomed to considering life cycle costs tend to forget: structures have to be maintained…which costs more $$$!!

Robert Frost’s neighbor in Mending Wall obviously didn’t get it:

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours?[…]”
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

No. They divide. And they will fail.

Or are torn down.

Or crumble on their own.

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