There seems to be plenty of calls for building walls lately, but not many for bridging what divides us as a community.
A Soviet-era leader once said, “If the East would tear down the Berlin Wall tomorrow, the West would rush to rebuild it very quickly.”
Seems that might be the case some 30 years later as we see thousands stranded along the Polish — Belarus border freezing in the early winter weather. Calls by many in the EU to build border walls are rising. Perhaps the governments now bracing for the worst in Europe should have thought about such realities as they let Syrian President Assad so brutally destroy his own country over the last decade or the United States failure to secure a thriving Kurdish region after the invasion of Iraq. Actions have consequences, unfortunate so does inaction.
Europe is not the only area seeking walls as a solution. Israel has walled off Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. India seeks to cut-off Bangladesh.
Here at home the call to finish walling off our southern border with Mexico is loudly chanted by many. At the end of World War II there were about seven border walls, that number gradually grew to about 15 at the time the Berlin Wall came down, now there are over 70 border walls and structures in place and growing. We know from the past that isolation is not a good solution, but yet in a globally connected world, we still see the barriers being erected, the walls going up, and calls to isolate and protect the home front from the dangerous hordes all around us.
Rather than make the tough choices in dealing with issues around the world, it has become easier for our leaders to ignore the humanitarian disasters taking place around the globe, to demonize families looking to escape those disasters and to build barriers to isolate from the turmoil created. Not a good long-term strategy for the global community.
We currently see this wall-building mentality play out in local politics across the nation. Republican-controlled statehouses are passing new redistricting maps to secure Republican election success. By creating districts whose lines act as walls, this new minority looks to secure their future political domination from being eroded by hordes of non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexuals seeking equality and justice.
Republican-led redistricting is essentially building walls to encircle safe havens that will secure a Republican-dominated political system. Those on the other side of the wall will be successfully disenfranchised and kept from a seat at the table.
To be fair, Democrats also have dirty hands when it comes to redistricting, but the recent moves by Republicans to limit voting rights, to prevent fair elections, and to so blatantly redistrict in their favor stoops to never-before-seen levels of anti-democratic, un-American, and possibly criminal behavior.
Have we given up on cooperation, on building consensus, on working with others to build a better world? The knee-jerk reaction of building walls is currently an easier road to take, rather than one that requires much more work, commitment, sacrifice, and effort to successfully lay a path on which we can all move ahead together rather than separate. Not sure where all this will lead, but by the look of things, we are in for much more troubling times ahead. Not the most optimistic news but perhaps the most realistic.
Looking closer to home and to the upcoming holiday season, there will be plenty of activities to divert our attention to happier times. Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Chanukah comes early this year, beginning shortly after Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, Kwanza and New Year’s Eve, which will bring us joyfully into the New Year.
Thanks to the work of a few elves over the past few months who have been hard at work serving on the Deck the Drive Committee, Islanders will have plenty to enjoy this holiday season. Much has been done by this group of volunteers that will lay the groundwork for better and better Deck the Drive campaigns for many years to come. Thanks to the Wilton Drive Improvement District for creating this committee, for city staff’s support and the committee members themselves for making this holiday season shine a bit brighter for all residents to enjoy. Festivities start on Dec. 2 with the Holiday Lighting Ceremony which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Justin Flippen Park.
Tearing down the walls that divide us, respecting differences, working together, doing our best, and striving to make our community a better place for all is what makes life just better here…
Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.