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I have occasionally commented on the way some people misuse the Bible by taking a verse or part of a verse—what I call a snippet—out of context, and using it to support or disprove a doctrine they have already either affirmed or dismissed. Others do the same thing with secular literature. I have recently observed how three writers have used a snippet from Frost’s poem Mending Wall in support of Trump’s plan to erect a mammoth wall on our border with Mexico.

The poem describes two men on adjacent farms who meet each spring to repair a stone wall running between their fields, which had been partly dismantled by the winter freeze, animals and careless hunters. One of the farmers held that good fences make good neighbors.

His partner in this yearly exercise—the poem’s narrator—was not sure:

Why do they make good neighbours?

Isn't it where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

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.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

That wants it down

The important big walls in history have proved to be effective or positive. The 5,500 mile Great Wall of China was built to keep out all invaders, but in its 2000 years it has continually been breached. In more recent history the Soviets’ Berlin wall only helped fuel the raging fires of the “Cold War,” until President Ronald Reagan thundered, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” Israel’s massive Palestinian wall has done little other than inhibit the so-called “Peace Process.”

Along comes Donald Trump and his plan to build a huge wall on the entire US Mexican border, a boondoggle that Congress will probably refuse to initially fund and Mexico will certainly not pay for. What is more troublesome than this fantasy is the unseen barrier it builds between the US and our Mexican neighbor.

Since his regrettable inauguration, Trump has done almost everything imaginable to increase the hostility between the US and our potentially dangerous enemies. He trashed the treaty with Iran that the international community spent years generating. In recent days he got into a nasty, unnecessary ad hominem catfight with North Korea’s loosely-put-together leader. What is more, he has built wall after wall between the US and our friends, beginning with a nasty phone encounter with the Prime Minister of Australia. He then threatened to dismantle our commitment to NATO and just recently shook a bombastic fist in addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations.

If diplomacy is the art of building bridges, Trump has spent these months destroying both the world’s sturdiest and most fragile. What a tasteless, dangerous path he has followed, putting at risk all that has made this nation truly great.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Charles Bayer

Charles Bayer is a somewhat retired theological professor and congregational pastor. 

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