If there is one thing that is certain about the shutdown, it is not only about the wall. There are many levels of discussion in this debate that involve more fundamental issues than just a physical structure. Understanding these issues can make sense out of the present impasse.
Of course, there is a debate about the actual wall—the physical barrier that inhibits the entrance of illegal immigrants. Many believe such barriers are very effective in keeping out those who break the law. There are others who question the efficacy of such structures. They believe other measures might prove more helpful. It can be admitted that people might debate this strictly practical position. However, this cannot be considered the main reason for the shutdown. There must be other reasons beyond the physical construction of a simple barrier.
The Wall Representing Rule of Law
Many believe that the wall is a physical symbol of the rule of law. The wall is meant to ensure those who enter America do so safely and legally according to the laws of the country. It prevents others from abusing the law by insisting that they be treated the same as those who make the immense effort to follow the law. The wall stands as a symbolic dividing line between legality and illegality. It would declare that it is not fair to treat those who mock the law like those who respect it.
This is a reasonable assumption that appeals to the American sense of fairness. However, there are also those whose sentimental notions of law might lead them to take the erroneous position of ignoring the law. They believe that any suffering trumps the law. However, even these enemies of the wall alone are not enough to explain the shutdown.
The Wall as a Manifestation of National Sovereignty
Others see the wall as a manifestation of national sovereignty. It is a physical consequence of the right of nations to determine the manner by which immigrants might enter the country. Throughout American history, there have always been immigrants who desire to enter the country, enrich the culture and contribute to its prosperity. The debate has never been about forbidding immigration. It is about determining the reasonable conditions that keep immigration safe, ample and ordered for the immigrant. At the same time, the intake of immigrants must not overwhelm the resources and culture of the local population.
However, there are those who have problems with national sovereignty. They believe there should be open borders so that anyone can find a home in America regardless of the person’s circumstances or the ability of the country to absorb them. They dream of a globalized world without borders that absorbs and dissolves the defining characteristics of nations.
Social Justice Issues
Others see the issue in terms of citizenship and social justice. The wall is a symbol of American world hegemony that must be renounced as an instrument of oppression. Thus, everyone should have the right to demand American citizenship, benefits and aid. It is one way, they fallaciously argue, to right the injustices committed over the centuries that made America a privileged and rich nation.
Those who hold this position ignore the injustice of allowing those with no knowledge and experience of life in America to be given rights of citizenship. They would thus help govern the nation, through voting, on equal footing with any other U.S. citizen. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that justice requires that citizenship be granted only after a long period so that decisions be qualified by those who understand the nation’s problems, and not mere impressions of them.
The social justice warriors represent the leftist part of the spectrum that finds all inequality unjust—and sees all illegal immigrants as potential voters.
The Hatred of Walls
There is a final reason for the shutdown that extends far beyond the political points just raised. This involves the dynamics of the decaying liberal society in America and probably involves a large number of people who subconsciously adhere to this position.
In this case, the debate over the border wall is not about its eventual size and shape, but about the nature of walls themselves that irk liberal sensibilities. Walls and borders represent restraint. The liberals rage against walls because it must say “no” to a frenetically intemperate culture that says “yes” to all unbridled passions.
Walls say there are both mine and thine. They reinforce inequalities that naturally arise when people live together in society. Fences affirm limits to those who feel constrained by boundaries and laws. But for a social justice warrior, barriers represent oppression, exclusion and injustice. They must all come down. They must never be built.
This explains the intransigence of so many of those involved in the debate. They generally know little about what is happening on the border. They are motivated by feelings of rage that call for tearing down all barriers, what and wherever they may be. They refuse even to discuss the matter since they mistakenly believe that anything that says “no” is hurtful and causes people to suffer. They now feel empowered to pursue their utopia of imagined absolute liberty even if it destroys the nation.
Sadly, they do not realize that, by defining rights, walls keep the peace. Good laws promote harmony not division. Limits prevent enslaving passions and give true freedom.
Thus, there is a fundamental disagreement at play in America. If there is a debate about the wall, it should be only about the wall. It should not be about mistaken notions of justice and freedom that threaten to take the nation on the road to ruin.