I don't blog politics. Why is that? Maybe because there's no trace of balance in politics, making it a lost cause from the start, as far as this blogger is concerned. I also prefer not to compare apples and oranges, but in this case I'm living, or have lived, close enough to each of these situations to feel the relevancy.
I am referring to state borders and the fences that demarcate them. This piece appeared in last Tuesday's NY Times, with an accompanying slide show. I found interesting the photo below, showing the simple barbed wire that later progressed into a taller, chained-linked fence, and which is now on its way to being a double fence separated by a no-man's land.
Pat Nixon, the former first lady, at a dedication of Border Field State Park in 1971. "I hate to see a fence anywhere," she said.
I know next to nothing about the former First Lady's politics or belief system, but I believe that she did hate to see a fence, probably because it reminds her of the suffering that has always accompanied the building of border fences -- the splitting up of families, suffering of children, economic upheaval, sickness, and loss of hope for the future.
Seeing the fence would put her human, emotional side at odds with her intellectual understanding of the need for such a fence, and the ramifications of not having one. Forty years ago, the U.S. could only begin to imagine the effects of a mass illegal Central American immigration on the state and national economy, health care and education systems, water needs, and many, many other sectors of society.
So by now you've probably figured out the other border that comes to mind what else I'm thinking about... the wall (alternately referred to as a fence, since in places it does alternate between the two) marking the boundary between pre- and post-1967 Israel, and clearly visible from our house.
(This view is actually from our neighbors' back garden, since it's clearer than the one from our balcony).
I remember the days before the wall was completed... the multiple car and animal thefts, the helicopter searches for potential terrorists in the valley below our moshav,* the afternoon shut-down of the mall in the city a few kilometers away due to terror warnings (apparently the bombers reached the mall, realized something was amiss, and were caught by the border patrol as they tried to cross back over the border). Make no mistake: I am happy the wall is there, because I know that without it, our lives were directly threatened.
I'm aware, as Mrs. Nixon was, that we pay a human price every time we demarcate a boundary and reinforce a border, and also that we pay a different price, both human and economic, every time we don't. For years we have continued to live for years with a boundary situation that does not fit into a neat category, about which we as a nation have not reached a consensus, and concerning which most of the world feels an obligation to judge us, time and again, despite a naive and simplistic analysis of a very complex situation. And if that weren't enough, we are being "led" by politicians who cannot seem to get their personal or national priorities straight on the most basic of levels.
When I first read the NY Times article, I felt a moment of, Ah! Take that, California, before you continue to condemn us for protecting our country and its citizens.
No, this is far from a new issue. California, and the entire U.S., have been dealing with immigration issues for years, long before President Bush, and long, long before 9/11. Despite the numerous differences, do we have something to learn from U.S. policy? Perhaps, but -- bottom line -- most of their considerations are still economic ones. As much as economics has a direct effect on people's lives, for the most part in the U.S. it isn't considered to be an issue of national survival. (Well, maybe these days it is...)
As for our multiple difficulties over here, I'm trying to keep a long-term perspective; after all, with 158 years of statehood under their belts, even California is still trying to figure things out.
I'm not sure if we should find that scary or reassuring.
Keep the balance,
* In case you're wondering, our moshav was incorporated by Jews of North African descent in 1964 who chose to come to Israel but wanted little to do with the state's policy of dumping them upon their arrival in what was then the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night).