Building Walls

By Helen Mueting, OSB

Editor's note: Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica write a weekly column titled "View from the Mount" in our hometown newspaper, the Atchison Globe. this column appeared in the Jan. 5 edition of the Globe.

In the weeks following the election, I was reminded many times of President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to continue building the wall between the U.S. and Mexican border.

I spent a lot of time thinking about walls. Lines from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Walls” came to mind. His poem begins with the line, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” The line resonates with something deep inside me. Walls enclose, block out, shut out others. We talk about people being walled out, not included in our interactions.

Later in his poem, Frost says, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence.” These are important questions that we need to ask ourselves.

What are we walling in? Is it our way of life, our fears, our unwillingness to confront the poverty and desire for a better life that drives people from their homeland? Do we desire to enclose ourselves in a safety bubble where we think we can continue to live isolated from the problems outside our world?

And what are we walling out? Some might say it is Mexicans stealing our jobs or criminals coming to take advantage of us. However, what we are walling out are men, women, children suffering from poverty or people who have become victims of violence in their own countries. They are people who want a better life for their children just as our ancestors wanted for the majority of us. Some are people who are coming to join family members already here.

This is not a case of “Good fences make good neighbors.” The wall keeps us from being good neighbors at all. It keeps us from seeing the suffering of those fleeing from their country. It keeps us from truly loving our neighbor as Jesus asked us to do.

Frost indicates that his neighbor who wants to build the wall “moves in darkness.” It is this darkness that doesn’t even let us ask the real questions that should be answered in relation to a wall. No one is asking how high or long it will be, how much it will cost or if it will be effective. The money needed to fund this project could be used more effectively to integrate immigrants into U.S. culture rather than block them out of it. It could be used to educate them on the Constitution and to enable them to learn the language.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says, “For he (Jesus) himself, is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,” (Eph. 2:14). During the Christmas season, we were also reminded that Christ came to bring light to the darkness. In order to have unity and peace, we cannot have barriers or walls. We cannot move in the darkness of hate and fear.

A melting pot such as the United States exists because people learned to live with differences. The learning must continue as new groups become part of who we are. Let us pray that Jesus can make our diverse groups into one and break down the walls that threaten to destroy our integrity as a nation of many cultures.