Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance

~Robert Kennedy



Why do men build walls?



Some of the greatest walls in history are now all but forgotten. So much time, money, and effort expended on something so transient—a thing whose purpose and importance will be all but forgotten with the passage of time—seems frivolous. Walls just don’t forever remain “big and pretty”.



One of the greatest of man’s walls is the Great Wall of China. According to ActivityVillage.com, “…the original Great Wall was built over a period of approximately 20 years. The Great Wall which is mainly in evidence today was actually built during the Ming dynasty, over a period of around 200 years.”



The NCC home-learning website states that “the wall was originally 4160 miles long and weighed as much as 8 million elephants. The total estimated cost to build the Wall today would be around 360 billion dollars.”



Today, the only purpose the Wall serves is as a tourist attraction. In many locations, the Wall is in disrepair. Parts have been destroyed because the Wall is in the way of construction. A 2012 report by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage states that “1,961 km (1,219 mi) of the wall has vanished. More than 60 km (37 mi) of the wall in Gansu province may disappear in the next 20 years, due to erosion from sandstorms. In some places, the height of the wall has been reduced from more than 5 m (16 ft 5 in) to less than 2 m (6 ft 7 in).”



Another of man’s great walls—Hadrian’s Wall—was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. It had a stone base and a stone wall. There were milecastles with two turrets in between. There was a fort about every five Roman miles.



If built today, it would cost approximately 1.2 billion dollars



Much of the wall has now disappeared. Long sections of it were used for roadbuilding in the 18th century.



Germany’s Berlin Wall was built with concrete in 1961 for 25 million dollars. In today’s dollars, that cost would be around 200 million dollars or 2.8 million dollars per mile (It was only 96 miles in length.)



In 1989, President Ronald Reagan implored Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall” and he did.



The Wall was destroyed in 1989. What remains of the Berlin wall can be found along the river Spree. There can be found approximately 1 mile of the authentic wall with all kinds of beautiful paintings by artists of all kinds. Often the work carries a political message.



Finally, there is the great “Western Wall” or “Wailing Wall”.  It is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Western Wall is all that is left of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall”. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great.



By comparison, a “Big, beautiful Wall” built along the Southwestern border of the United States of America would span approximately 2000 miles. It would cost approximately 14 billion dollars to build (7 billion dollars per mile.) Also, according to one analysis, the cost to maintain the wall could exceed 750 million dollars per year.



The cost to man such a wall (after all, what good is a wall without watchmen), would exceed 1,4 billion dollars per year. Add to that the cost of cameras and computer technology and the cost increases. Keep in mind that these costs are for “fencing” and not a “big, beautiful, wall” of concrete or metal. The cost of an actual “wall” soars exponentially.



According to Webster, a “fence” is a barrier intended to prevent escape or intrusion or to mark a boundary—especially: such a barrier made of posts and wire or boards. And, a “Wall” is: a high thick masonry structure forming a long rampart or an enclosure chiefly for defense —often used in the plural. But we don’t really need a dictionary to know the difference, any country boy worth his hay knows the difference between a fence and a wall.



There is also an additional cost which cannot be quantified in dollar amounts. This cost is infinitely higher than the cost of building and maintaining a “big, beautiful, wall, for “When we begin to build walls of prejudice, hatred, pride, and self-indulgence around ourselves, we are more surely imprisoned than any prisoner behind concrete walls and iron bars” (Mother Angelica).



But, no matter the cost of the “big, beautiful wall”, it will eventually become a relic—at best— a memorial to one man’s foolish hubris fated to join the rest of the so-called “great walls”—destined to return to the dust from which it came.



The Great Ronald Reagan once said, “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect” (Ronald Reagan).



Now put that in your peace-pipe and smoke it!



“Jesus came to destroy walls. His mission was to remove the barriers that keep us from knowing God, knowing each other, and ultimately living in true relationship.”

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