Sometimes You Need A Wall

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“I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees….”
           —from MENDING WALL/ Robert Frost

It’s time for American to embrace the wall concept.

Build it strong, tall and unconquerable.

Surely, I jest?

No, I don’t. Given the current political climate in America, I think we need a wall. In fact we need millions of them.

Yes, at this point, you’re probably tired of political metaphors and aphorisms. I hear you. But I’ve got one more for you. And this is it.

This is a time when you need to BE a wall. And so do I. 

Hear me out.

During this recent election, there was inarguably an overt appeals to the principles of white supremacy. There just plain was. It doesn’t matter if the people issuing the appeal believe in that stuff  or not. It matters that a lot of people embraced it.

So, as much as we have to work to bring people together, to “build bridges, not walls” — we also, right about now,  have to have the backs of our fellow Americans in situations when other fellow Americans who aren’t so much into the whole “united” thing just yet may strike.

This means what? Well, for example,  if you’re in the break room  at work or on the sidelines of your kid’s game and you hear someone trash-talking a race or religion or nationality,  or whatever – be the wall. Refuse to walk away from it. Shut that down. Decide this nonsense isn’t going any further. Not to closer to your kids. Not closer to our neighborhood. It stops here. At this wall. At me.

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Because it’s not “political correctness”  to insist people don’t use racial slurs in your presence or don’t stereotype or scapegoat whole groups of people in a totally ridiculous way that negatively impacts their lives to the point its dangerous.

That’s just basic decency.

Here’s another one. If, again, we’re in the break room at work or watching your kid’s soccer game – wherever – and someone – whomever – is actually  physically accosting or verbally abusing another person for her hijab or accent or .anything? We step in the middle of it as a protective wall.  We make it clear to the would-be target that  he or she is not alone. And we make it clear to the harassers that they are not getting any further with that nonsense.Not past this wall.

If we see a law or a policy bubbling to the surface which makes some people less-than some others? This is America. Nah.

So be a wall. Get in front of that malarkey.

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And last,  let’s  build our own mental walls, fending off those thoughts – you know the ones I mean. “They” thoughts.  “Why are they always complaining?”  “If only they would just be less like themselves and more like me…”…

Name it: implicit bias. And tame it: wall off those thoughts, cut them off from going any further into your life.

And I want to say, this wall-being stuff applies to everyone, true, but it is especially meant for my fellow white people, my fellow middle class people, my fellow straight people, my fellow Christian-y people — any person who has a majority standing in this country: we have to know that majority standing gives us special power and with it, special responsibility.

No, seriously. That’s the reality.  Just embrace the trade-off.

Batman did. So can you.

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So, build bridges, by all means. Seek that common ground. Just, let’s keep an eye out for those situations when someone doesn’t want our bridge and someone else stands to be hurt because of that rejection.

Then let’s step in, be the wall, as best we can….and remain hopeful that these other people will come around. They will see us there and ask us what we’re doing.

Or they will ask themselves “What are those people doing standing there?”

And then maybe they will ask “What are we doing standing here?

Maybe they’ll wonder about the kinds of walls they’ve been constructing in that moment.

And maybe they’ll wonder if they’d be better off without their walls.

And then maybe, over time, they will be.

 

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