This column is part of a “Point-Counterpoint” pair. Read I Could Be Wrong on the issue here.
Ray missed his calling. Had he chosen science fiction as a career, he might now be rich, and I could be borrowing money from him.
In discussions with friends about scifi and fantasy writing, I’ve discovered that not everyone appreciates their seemingly absurd or fantastic images. Okay, but whimsy sometimes points out a reality that people know, but don’t know that they know.
Take George Orwell’s Animal Farm. First published in 1945, it will never be outdated because of its allegorical message about how people can be tricked into to accepting almost anything if slogans are catchy enough, repeated often enough, and others seem to accept them. Orwell’s thinly disguised criticism of Communism has animal characters, with pigs, who are in charge, drumming up the popular slogan, “All animals are created equal.” The others barely notice when the pigs later add, “but some animals are more equal than others.”
It doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines to guess that Ray isn’t thrilled with the idea of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Fancy that. Current estimates for the 1300 miles of border still unfenced are about $16 billion dollars, depending on who’s doing the estimating. That’s billion, with a ‘B’, for materials, labor, land acquisition, mountain and water crossings and surveillance equipment. This is for a fence, not a wall. Imagine the cost of a real wall. Then imagine Mexico agreeing to pay for it.
Fence maintenance would be $650 million per year, if it’s not manned. If manned 24/7, it would run to more than a billion dollars per year for the most unattractive structure ever created by our country.
Years ago I experienced the last such wall built when visiting a museum in East Berlin. Our guide warned us in advance not to make any comments (especially jokes) to the grim-faced, gun totin’ guards who inspected inside, outside and under our bus as we entered and left. I obeyed the don’t-speak order but did smile at one guard, who gave me a Drop-Dead look in return.
In contrast to bustling West Berlin, everything east of the wall (the side of the people who built it) was bedraggled. Buildings were unkept, food was tasteless, clothes were drab, people were morose. There was no talking to restaurant waiters, no tipping, no asking for anything special, like salt. I kept feeling for my passport to be sure I could get out of there again.
Remember the rejoicing when that wall came down in 1989? The flies must have missed that. Maybe they don’t live long enough to remember. Maybe they can talk, but they can’t read. Or won’t read.
Listen up, flies. I’m not sure of your reasoning faculties, but take it from history: Walls aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.