President Donald Trump was elected, in part, on his promise to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.
After Germany was partitioned following their defeat in World War II, Berlin was divided between the Soviet Union and the other Allies. East Germans and others escaping from eastern-bloc countries came through Berlin in the hundreds of thousands. The numbers became so great it became what was first called a “brain drain” for East Germany, as they were depleted of doctors, lawyers, engineers.
The Berlin Wall went up August 13, 1961. Before the month was out, three people were dead from attempting to cross it. The first was a 58-year-old nurse.
Berlin Wall refugees died trying to cross from east to west mostly. A few died of heart attacks, almost all the children who died at the wall drowned in one of the rivers running along it. The East Germans would not allow drowning children to be rescued. Mostly people who died were shot by border guards. Women, the elderly, and even a 10-year-old child, were shot.
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The largest number of dead escapees were young men. But if you were shot, the guards would not allow you to be rescued. The “dead zone” was famously where you bled to death. Authorities disagree, but between 158 and 250 died from 1961 to when the wall came down in 1989. One death during a border crossing was an infant smothered by his mother. They were hidden in a truck and he started to cry.
Walls between borders do not work unless they are guarded by people with guns willing to use them. If the United States of America was against the Berlin Wall and what it represented, then it seems that we should not be the kind of nation that builds a wall to keep people from getting in and is willing to shoot them if they try.
East German border guards were prosecuted for manslaughter after 1989. Some guards, filled with remorse, pleaded guilty and went to prison. It is unimaginable that we would be willing to shoot men, women and children trying to cross Donald’s Wall. Can we, as a nation, pull the trigger on a grandmother trying to sneak into our country for the privilege of picking our strawberries?
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) worked to reform immigration policy for years and voted in favor of a border fence even though he did not believe it would work. Asked about illegal immigration in 2007, he denied favoring amnesty, but added, “We need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God’s children as well. And they need some protection under the law; they need some of our love and compassion.”
If we become a people that will shoot other mostly poor people crossing our borders, then we are not the same people that celebrated the destruction of the Berlin Wall. If we are the people that will bar Muslims from entering our country, then we are still the same people that thought putting 110,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps was a good idea.
Not being in favor of a wall does not mean you favor unrestrained illegal immigration, or murderers or rapists or drug dealers. Not being in favor of banning travelers from mostly Muslim countries does not mean you favor ISIS.
We are a nation of freedoms, built by immigrants, protected not just by our laws, but our compassion for our fellow man.
If we build Donald’s Wall, some future generation will celebrate when it comes down.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.