As John Oliver puts it, Donald Trump is now the biggest mole growing on America’s back, which may have “seemed harmless a year ago, but now that it’s got frighteningly bigger, it is no longer wise to ignore it”.
Cancerous Trump is somehow “trumping” through the election with the support of a despondent demographic, and his policy proposals on immigration has factored into his unsettling popularity. Specifically, his signature bid on building a huge concrete wall across the border where the U.S. and Mexico meet, has stirred up controversial debate over illegal immigration policies.
This contentious debate unsurprisingly revolves around whether or not this will prevent the entry of Mexican illegal migrants, but the true questions that need to be delved into centre around the implications of the actual physical divide.
Essentially, a border already exists between the two sovereign nations – so what does taking something from a concept or an invisible line in the ground, and turning it into a physical barrier do to the mindset of those being kept out, and those being kept in?
The idea of creating a fenced border at the frontiers of U.S. and Mexico may seem absurd but it’s not a new idea – the U.S. has already spent billions on fencing one third of the South-Western border.
Throughout human history, many societies have built and erected numerous walls and fences to create borders to keep certain people both in and out of territories. In essence, they worked as means of circumscribing movements of people.
Think back to the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall that was later demolished, and the Israeli West Bank Barrier that divides Israel from the Palestinians. The human practice of wall building is an ingrained trait of modern states.
The many examples show that walls in the past have generally been more than infrastructures, but manifestations of cultural and psychological ideologies; they exist not only as concrete walls but also within the mind. The 1961 Berlin Wall is a classic example borne out of state fear, which embodied conflicts of ideology and politics.
For most of the time, creation of physical barriers between people legitimises ethnic exclusion and domestic discriminatory customs. Where a border is defined by taking physical form, the perception of difference and exclusion becomes more intense but also tangible at the same time.
This creates limits to both the people wanting to enter, but also for the people who are on the other side of the wall. Potentially, the wall’s manifestations of exclusion may bolster feelings of belonging and prejudice. While feelings of resentment grow on one side, feelings of superiority and self-righteousness grow on the other – both spurred on by the symbol of inequality and exclusion which has been erected in-between them.
America’s concerns about immigration practices and movement of people reach back to the very beginning of U.S. history. At particular points in its history, immigration movements of the Irish, Chinese and Italians were once considered immigrant threats to the American image and are not capable of integrating into the American society. This is obviously untrue today, but now, the concerns have shifted onto Mexicans, Latin Americans and Muslims.
Trump’s wall would be a physical barrier, it would produce an international stigma about the value and status of Mexicans, it would divide the world in opinion, and would be a step backwards in history.
Somehow, in Trump’s vision, building a 1954-mile concrete wall is no big sweat: “[it’s] easy, and it can be done inexpensively… It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing” says the Republican dark horse.
Well Trump, all I can say is that U.S. Customs and Border Protection put forward an estimate of more than $22.4 billion dollars just to build the damn wall along the entire Mexican border (where two-thirds of it is along rivers) – good luck with that).
This doesn’t include the additional on-going costs on maintenance, operational monitoring, and border security, and not to mention the unpleasant job of expropriating private land from unhappy citizens.
Inexpensive, hey? Let’s just get Mexico to pay for it (says he).
For Trump, this probably seems so simple. Perhaps, for him, it doesn’t take much to ostracize an entire group of people when you are contending for the spot at the top of the Western world’s hierarchy.
Let us not so much focus on the mascot but on the man himself. What will make America great again will not be Trump’s logo, but a reinvigoration of America’s foundational principles of freedom and acceptance.
Even if we come to see the day the concrete wall is built, it will only be a wall that represents America’s ethnic discrimination with a very costly price tag