I always wanted a wall. Actually, I wanted four. They hold roofs really well and who among us doesn’t want a roof over one’s head? I’ve dreamed of stone and brick walls, too, with beautiful gemmed inlay like we see in Mexican jewelry. Or like the gorgeous wall in Savannah by the river bank, the one that a lovely tour guide said was built by African slaves. “But, damn”, she said, “they did a great job.” (Not that she was for slaves or anything, I think she implied as she drove the rickety bus over cobbled streets and stopped at one point to wave to her “baby girl” who just happened to be passing us by).
“They were like engineers, workin’ all day in the hot sun, layin’ stone by stone.”
But, perhaps we can think of creative ways of paying for this new wall, make it nice, you know, like with cool art, perhaps memorial art, like perhaps we could put on this wall clowny figures of dead people from the wars we have blindly enabled in the past 15 years because when people die untimely deaths, it’s always good to follow up with more deaths, (with our tax dollars, we could do this) and lord knows, we are willing to pay to memorialize the dead. Or maybe we could make it pretty (like the Vietnam Memorial Wall), or like the one where my kid used to work. That’s a beautiful one; actually it’s more than one.
There are four walls times two, and they border water falling into a gray pit. Folks say it’s calming. Water moving. I did not. To me it was a dark warning about walls. And they charge a lot of money if you want to see what led to that memorial. You know, to go inside what was once a giant tower where people worked and now is partly museum. A museum of the dead that tells a story of walls. Who paid for that, by the way?
It costs twenty dollars to go in to see the valorized rubble that once held my daughter as she held her fetus in her womb. It tells a story about how all this rubble fell on her, crushed her. So I don’t have to pay to go inside.
Truth is, I don’t have to go inside. The original wall built on hate caused the new walls built of brick and mortar, concrete, steel, barbed wire. The wall that is idea, constructed of matter that we do not see with our eyes, but feel so deeply that brick and mortar cannot compete, that neither earth-movers nor the will of an individual person can remove. That wall, aggregated over time, emerging from simple habits: like pretending people are black and white (yes, that clear), Jew and gentile, Muslim and Christian. I never wanted that wall. I wanted that wall down. That wall only melts away in the hearts of individual people over time, long periods of time. In the collective it never goes away. It just moves to different groups that need walling off. In a heartbeat, or a sound bite, that wall gets firmer, more solid, in the glaciated heart of the people.
We don’t really need that new wall. It’s already been built.
But here’s a good idea, a really good idea–maybe we could see that, for once, for once, before we build a wall, we could maybe, just once, in human history, or in American history, just one time—
Look at how joyful it was to tear one down.
About the author:
Donna Marsh lives in central New York with her husband, Robert O’Connor and her life partner, Landeaux–a Yorkie Bichon. Currently at work on two books about the loss of her daughter on 9/11, she writes to bring her back to life, if only on the page. She teaches writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University. Her recent work has appeared in Red Savina Review, Stone Canoe Journal, Rose Red Review, and WeirdararyJournal.