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Take the wall off the table
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Take the wall off the table

Take the wall off the table


Posted from Seattle WA on Jan 15, 2018


I am running an ad in the Seattle Times on Tuesday, January 16, A-section, that makes a nonpartisan plea to America to take the wall off the table, essentially calling it an unacceptably unpatriotic idea that insults the memory of our founder George Washington.  Funding for the wall should not be impeding efforts to help the dreamers (DACA recipients) legally stay in America.


The text of the ad is here:


George Washington didn’t freeze in Valley Forge for this

The wall has a patriotism problem

Despite the politicians’ and some of the media–including NPR’s–habit of calling this a border wall, it’s not a border wall. It’s far away on the north bank of the riparian zone, and it will constrict and shrink our country, ceding away a Rhode Island-sized piece of land. The wall itself will eminent-domain Americans from their own property and screen off American access to what we must understand is a national treasure: imagine a wall in front of the Grand Canyon. The time has come to ask wall supporters if they still love our country.


The ‘border wall’ that isn’t…

It is my position that the plan to build a wall has itself been built purely on a foundation of misinformation.  First proposed as an emergency solution to a problem, the wall was quickly funded but soon petered-out as it’s unworkability and unpopularity on the ground became apparent. Then the idea was resuscitated by a candidate but not really taken seriously as this candidate was viewed as either a joke-who-would-never-become-President or as a fun-way-to-blow-off-steam-about-America’s-wrong-headed-political-direction. Neither side thought it critical to really look into the reality of what was being proposed, and no one seemed to understand that the idea was intrinsically unpatriotic.


Altimara Oriole, 16 inches of what some might call America’s most strikingly beautiful songbird. Photographed in the Rio Grande Valley by Ed Newbold, 2015

The false notion that the wall was a “border wall” therefore came to be accepted and perpetuated by politicians on both sides and by the media as well. Americans general lack of familiarity with the borderlands played a huge role in this.


So let me discuss what the wall really is in the context of a border that those of us here in the Northwest are very familiar with.  Let’s suppose Washington wanted to build a wall to keep Oregonians out.  On the eastern segment of the border, in places, the Washingtonians could build a “border wall.”  It wouldn’t be pretty, but it might be a “border wall.”

In the western portion, however, the W’s couldn’t put the wall in the middle of the Columbia River. (Always keep in mind, rivers flood.)  They’d have to come to the northern bank of the surge plain and go up a ways and put the wall there, although one should remember there are also tributaries to the main-stem river that join it and all have their own surge plains, so the further in to the Washington side you build the wall the better, from an engineering standpoint.

Suddenly, a whole lot of land has been lost to Washington. But it gets worse.

The wall would have to be very tall so that the Oregonians couldn’t bring light, transportable ladders to easily traverse it. OK, great. Now Washingtonians can no longer gaze at the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, and there’s no longer a view of Mt. Hood from its most flattering direction, which is from Clark County—sorry Portland.  But you could still see Mt. Hood from the WA side if you got special access to go through the wall and visit the land on the other side of the wall.

Ringed Kingfisher hunting in Benson State Park in McAllen, Texas. Photo by Ed Newbold

One reason you might want this access is that the land on the other side of the wall is you own it or used to… If it was taken from you for this project, or if you have been cut off from access to it, you will not, trust me, have been appropriately compensated.  A series of bad Supreme Court decisions on eminent domain have allowed such land to be confiscated at “willing seller” prices.  Once in a blue moon, the seller might have been ready to sell anyway independent of the land confiscation, but more often there is a deep emotional connection, sometimes going back generations, and abhorrence at the very thought of selling. Asking such people to leave can mean their emotional and/or financial destruction and in those cases “willing seller” prices are nothing but a sad joke.


A boardwalk at Estero Llano natural area in the Rio Grande riparian zone. photo by Ed Newbold

As the Oregon/Washington case shows, a wall like is in no sense a ‘border wall, and it chops a huge piece of land off the jurisdiction that wants the wall while destroying the access, views and ownership of the citizens of the state that is doing the building. It takes from them the natural beauty that is their birthright. 

White-tailed Kite near McAllen, Texas in the Rio Grande valley. Photo by Ed Newbold

Today, true patriots no longer believe in ‘manifest destiny’ and no longer seek to conquer new lands to acquire and make part of our country.  But by the same token, patriots don’t seek to unilaterally chop away large (Rhode Island-sized) chunks of it either.  They don’t want to whittle it away.  Nor would true patriots want to unnecessarily take Americans’ land away from them while destroying every Americans access and to their own national treasures. Patriots don’t believe in self-inflicting an amputation and then administering a wound on their own country. Imagine if a foreign country wanted to build a wall like this on our soil, there would be calls for war. 

Both sides are so caught up in this fight that neither has really come to grips with what this wall means. Unilaterally decreasing the footprint of America to this degree is off-the-charts unpatriotic.  It’s imperative that the wall be removed from consideration immediately.


Green Jays are abundant in the Rio Grande Valley. Photo by Ed Newbold

PS.  My ad was finalized and placed with the Seattle Times an hour before the news broke of Trump’s profane and disrespectful comment.

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