|Here's one they built earlier|
On 26 June 1963, five months before his assassination, John F Kennedy delivered the most famous speech of his presidency. In Berlin, facing a huge crowd, he told the world:
“Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to build a wall”.
“While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is…an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters”.
A quarter of a century later, in 1987, President Reagan took the now-regular pilgrimage, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate to echo the same sentiments.
“Behind me stands a wall…part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent…a gash of barded wire, concrete, dog runs and guard towers”.
Just like Kennedy, Reagan understood that the scar wasn’t just physical. Walls are concrete manifestations of opposing views of the world.
As he put it: “Further South, there may be no visible, no obvious wall – but there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same. Still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state.”
Half a century after Kennedy’s speech, times have changed.
In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu justifies walls and fences saying: “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts…We will surround the entire state of Israel with a fence, a barrier.”
Banksy, among others, remains unconvinced. But there are also plenty of people who support the erection of barriers. In January 2017, President Trump announced an Executive Order to build a wall on the border with Mexico, saying:
“A nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today the USA gets back control of its borders…My staff will begin immediate construction of a border wall. So badly needed.”
It is his choice. As it is our choice. We can choose to be the person who builds walls to separate ourselves from others. Or we can choose to be the person who builds bridges instead.