22 May, 2022


President Trump Looked For The Failed Idea Of A Wall

By Patrick Mendis

Prof. Patrick Mendis

The talks over the “Wall of Trump” between the US-Mexico border security broke down with Congressional leaders over the weekend. After the renewed call for a wall at his second State of the Union, President Donald Trump attended a political rally in El Paso, a “safe” border city in Texas. Even with a Congressional deal, the White House intends to deploy American military at the Mexican border and continues to threaten Congress that the president would declare “national emergency” to get his border wall. 

Characterizing Trump’s exaggerated claims on the border crimes and naming immigrants as “rapists” and “animals,” Congresswoman Veronica Escobar representing El Paso called the president “a liar.” The bipartisan Congress does not also seem to fully fund the Trump wall.

 Long before Trump, however, there was an original love affair with China’s Great Wall. It was none other than Benjamin Franklin, the chief disciple of Confucius and chinoiserie among the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Unlike President Trump, Franklin was an American statesman who always had the veracity for facts and joined the military for national unity—a character of authentic Americanism to its founding conviction.      

Soon after commissioning him as a military commander, Governor Robert Morris of the Pennsylvania Colony dispatched Franklin to defend the British colonists against the encroaching French and their Native Indian allies by building a “line of forts” in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Envisioning a China Wall, Franklin wrote, “You cannot protect the country from Indians on the warpath by forts. They can pass between them through the forests, burn and pillage and massacre the people of the scattered villages, and return again in perfect safety. Only a Chinese wall the whole length of the Western frontier would be a sufficient protection against these savages.” 

Once the war broke out in the Ohio River Valley in 1754, Pennsylvania was divided on a provincial security strategy. While some argued for carrying the war to the enemy, Governor Morris and Franklin advocated a defensive strategy with forts that “were connected by a wall like that of China.” 

After building Fort Allen, Franklin supervised the construction of three other fortifications—Forts Franklin, Hamilton, and Norris—over the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. To galvanize public opinion to unite the colonies and defense against France, Franklin published a now-famous political cartoon in 1754, “Join or Die,” and wrote to support the construction of forts on “the Back of our Settlements in all our Colonies.” 

Not everyone in colonial America agreed. In his letter to Franklin in 1776, the Chevalier de Kermorvan, a French engineer in the Continental Army under George Washington, disagreed, arguing that “this work would be as useless here as the great wall of China, which has not preserved this empire from being conquered by the Tartars.” In his exist interview, likewise, General John Kelly, former chief of staff for President Trump, realized the futility of a wall when he concluded, “if you want to stop illegal immigration, stop US demand for drugs, and expand economic opportunity in Central America.”

Unlike the American experience, however, the Great Wall of China was built by laborers with human tragedies over a period of two millennia, beginning roughly with the years of Confucius (551-479 BC). But, the Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty (221-207BC) and the first emperor of the unified Imperial China connected a number of remaining network of fortifications into a single defensive system against the invading Mongol, Turkic, and other nomadic tribes. In the ensuing centuries, various dynasties continued to construct a strong defensive border-wall to safeguard against foreign invasion, regulate immigration, and manage trade until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD). While it hardly prevented the non-Chinese nomadic intruders like the Mongols and Manchu from establishing the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) respectively, the Great Wall has indeed played a historic role in unifying China and its national identity. 

President Trump’s “immoral” campaign to build a “Great Wall” of concrete and steel across the US-Mexican border, on the other hand, has more to do with the white nationalism shrouded in the White House’s immigration policy. The president’s descriptions of invading “caravans” of migrants and “criminals” coming through the border and the arriving war refugees from Muslim countries seem to resonate with yet another “wall” sentiment of the nascent republic. 

In considering the New York Constitution, for example, John Jay, who later became the first chief justice of the US Supreme Court, suggested that “we must erect a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics,” who were generally meant to include French, Irish, Italians, and Spanish as opposed to white Protestants. The New York Constitution in 1777 adopted that freedom from “spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priest and princes have scourged mankind” and then declared “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever hereafter be allowed, with this State, to all mankind.”     

In politics now as it was then, the perennial debate over the inkling of a physical “wall” is still in the public discourse as it has always been with Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor of a “wall of separation” between church and state. The American experiment born out of the Jeffersonian ideal that “all men are created equal” was meant to eventually make the new republic into a great melting pot. Unlike with the rising and falling empires of Chinese civilization that has evolved, the US was created by the enlightened men envisioning a “philosophic empire” as a work-in-progress for the posterity to build a “more perfect union.” 

Ironically, however, while Trump continues to advocate a “beautiful” wall, Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a clear message to the White House that “the wise man builds bridges, the fool builds walls.” Similarly, while visiting Panama last week, Pope Francis also remarked without directly referring to Trump that “we know that the father of lies, the devil, prefers a community divided and bickering” by building walls, not bridges.

In his farewell address, President Ronald Reagan invoked John Winthrop’s famous “Model of Christian Charity” phrase “shining city on a hill” to describe authentic Americanism when he said, “if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Surely, the American experience that progressed through the French and Indian War has made this Reaganite idea into a global nation—not a politically opportunistic slogan of “American First” with shameful “isolationism.”

As Congress contemplates the very idea of a wall and the cost of another government shutdown and national emergency, these representatives ought to remember that we are transitory guardians with diverse faith traditions on a land expropriated from the rightful owners of Native Americans; thus, they must restore the enlightened founding vision to make American democracy safe for global diversity. The Republican leaders should also educate Trump, reminding their inspired leader Reagan who said in 1987 to his Soviet counterpart at the Berlin Wall, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” That is authentic Americanism. 

*Professor Patrick Mendis, the author of Peaceful War, is a former American Field Service (AFS) inter-cultural exchange student from Sri Lanka to the United States and later adopted by the community of Perham in the state of Minnesota, which he considers his “birthplace” in America.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    There is a fence at the US-Mexico border. If you track the perimeter of this fence, the impracticality is mind blowing. The fence itself is badly planed, designed, financed and constructed. Many parts of the fence are dilapidated or intentionally damaged by hostile forces from the other side of the border. Part of the fence stretches through hostile country and experts question the purpose because no one would dare to cross over that frontier unless there is a reliable underground labyrinth of human smugglers to support the illegal crossings. With all the technology on the US-side with aerial imaging, drones, aircraft, helicopters, guard petrol, watch towers, guard posts, bunkers with night vision cameras and ground robots patrolling the front lines 24/7, the US border guards are still unable to stop the influx of illegal immigrants. On the other hand, if there is anyone who has legally tried to go through the immigration process through USCIS, one would understand that this entire system is tedious, expensive, inefficient and a predatory process to profit from applicants. At least, one can defend the government’s predatory profiteering so long its the choice of the people wanting to pay in order to be legal and be qualified immigrants. Nevertheless, if one would analyze the immigration process for professional applicants, this too is a daylight robbery. It is an inefficient, frustrating and complex process even for a US citizen to sponsor a foreign spouse or child, blood relative or anyone else. The entire US-visa structure that puts applicants on the track for residency or citizenship is a very unprofessional and a badly designed bureaucracy. One of the victims of this system is the Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

    • 3

      Prof: Mendis, Thanks,
      Trumpland has recently invented a new Ocean called the “Indo-Pacific! This is INNOVATION US style!
      In this “new ocean, called the “Indo Pacific”, Trumpland considers Sri Lanka a “strategic opportunity” for militarization, and bases according the US commander of this new ocean. for what????!
      “Sri Lanka remains a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean, and our military-to-military relationship continues to strengthen,” US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm Philips Davidson told the Senate’s Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.
      In order to secure Sri Lanka as a strategic opportunity, Trumpland is waging a low grade Economic War against the people of Lanka with the help of CORRUPT UNP and SLFP politicians like Bondscam Ranil and US citizen Gota, while pushing religious and ethnic divides and NARRATIVES.
      So, 10 years after war ended and the LTTE was destroyed in Lanka, the military budget is the biggest item in this debt trapped country.
      Also, Lanka is debt trapped by sovereign bond traders from US big banks and NOT by China. But US is putting out a lot of FAKE NEWS with its proxy Japan and EU and claiming that Sri Lanka is in a Chinese Debt trap.
      The true picture of Lanka’s debt trap is that more than 50%.Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt is held by US big banks linked capital market sovereign bond traders. Like Venezuvela and Haiti Lanka’s economy and currency is under attack by Washington Consensus “Economic Hit men” from Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) IMF and WB of course with corporation of Washington’s puppet Bondsam Ranil and his butterfly maffia.
      Trumpland is waging secret economic warfare against Sri Lanka to crash the rupee, asset strip the county of land and strategic marine resources and infrastructure and capture Lanka’s policy process to benefit US security and business interests in Indian Ocean.Trumpland is militarising Asia it its Cold War against China and Asia Rising.

      • 3

        Dodo, right on! US has been also weaponizing Buddhism against Islam (with its partner Saudi Arabia which has been spreading Wahabism), in Sri Lanka as it did during the Cold War to fight Communism, USSR, and China.
        Dr. Mendis please check out the book by Eugene Ford:”Cold War Monks: Buddhism and America’s Secret Strategy in South East Asia” published by Yale University Press in 2017.
        Divide, Distract with Fake News, and RULE, was an old colonial strategy that still works — better with social media and Facebook!
        US citizen Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been at the forefront of militarizing and weaponizing Buddhism in Sri Lanka during and after the war. BBS saffron thug Galaboda Gniyanasara went to Norway and USA and came back and started attacking Muslims in Sri Lanka.
        Is there some connection to the US setting up military bases in Trincomalee, at this time while the Fake New Constitution draft is being used to distract everyone with religious and ethnic tensions being re-started?

  • 3

    Mr. Mendis, very interesting liberal perspective; I am not sure if Foxnews fans will agree with you. But his base want the wall.
    Every lie he utters, every demagoguery that he utters means he is boosting his white nationalist base.
    That is why he might still win in 2020. White nationalism, combined with son Jr. attacking teachers yesterday, calling them “socialist losers” are sort of the thing not a single Sri Lankan President or PM has uttered. These resonate with the low IQ base of his. Already the press is the enemy. Now he calls FactCheckers liars too. Attacking teachers is a new low.
    He even has a 42% approval rating overall and 80% or more Republicans LOVE HIM and ADORE him like how people adored Peron or Mussolini. As a fellow immigrant American I fear for the future. The Democrats compromised and have approved 1.37Billion for 55 miles of walls.
    But in the conversation about walls, I find it queer that NO ONE wants to talk about India’s wall of death with Bangladesh; it is the LONGEST border wall in the world so far. And Indian troops open fire on Bangladeshis who indulge in cattle rustling etc., Trump will keep repeating lies and they are then believed as fact. Look at the attack on a BBC correspondent yesterday at a Trump rally.
    The deal allots $1.375 billion for new fencing between the United States and Mexico—enough to fund about 55 miles of new metal slats, and far less than the $5.7 billion President T demanded for a concrete wall. In exchange, Democrats would drop their demand to limit detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Perhaps most importantly, the measure would fund the government through the end of September, preventing another punishing shutdown.
    He has a solid base of over 44Million voters. His voters and evangelical christian fanatics will not waver in their support.

  • 2

    The wall or fence is already partly in place. A promise is a promise, and one of President Trumps promises were to build a wall.

    Both sides are responsible for the shut down, if one gives in its over. So pick your side and say it’s right.

  • 0

    The wall between the U.S. and Mexico long predates the Trump presidency and he only wants to extend it, so that it covers the full border between the two countries. It was originally built to keep illegal immigrants out and the Democrats, who now oppose it, actually supported its construction in the past. Evidently, the real reason for this present opposition is churlishness on their part because they want to prevent Trump from fulfilling one of his election pledges and thus increasing his chances of another term. Politicians are the same everywhere!

    Professor P. Mendis’ contention is that the original white settlers of America expropriated land from the native Indians, who he considers the rightful owners of the land (a debatable position); therefore U.S today should keep its borders open to allow all sorts of riff raff to enter the country freely, regardless of the consequences.
    Those who migrated to the U.S. in the distant past were settlers and they came seeking their fortune and escape from persecution with NO SAFETY NET in the form of social welfare as America has today. They had to work hard to survive or perish. Therefore there is no comparison with today’s migrants. Trump does not oppose immigration as such and he simply wants the immigrants to come legally and to meet the necessary criteria. Isn’t that reasonable? Don’t all countries follow the same policy?

    Professor P. M. wishes Trump to ponder Reagan’s words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” showing his ignorance of basic facts of history. The Berlin Wall was actually built to prevent defections from East to West, though its ostensible purpose was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state.

  • 2

    Prof. Mendis may have shared a liberal view but he is correct. Vanguard, you say, “a promise is a promise”. When a notorious con man like Trump promises something, it’s not a promise. It’s a con. Trump also promised to wipe out the US debt by printing money saying he can do anything as US president. He is right because he owns the mint under the treasury. Was that “promise” ever achieved? Any sixth grader will tell you the economic back clash of such a quixotic decision. Trump promised tax reform and savings for the middle class. He passed tax reform. If you qualify for a tax refund, your’s would be lesser than in the previous tax years. Many tax payers owe the government and their state. Never was this the case in previous years. H&R Block admits that most of the tax incentives for the middle class have been wiped out and shown that the Trump tax reforms are a fake. He made so many promises to “make America great again”. How many more factories and manufacturing jobs has he added? There is a huge “hole” in whatever Trump has promised let alone his “beautiful wall”. He has made the country unsafe than any other in US history. Pulling out of the INF treaty was a huge mistakes that has alienated US allies such as NATO and EU. What nonsense are you guys talking. Many of you who comment on these forums have not a damn clue. You’re blinded by your own personal political prejudices.

  • 0

    I think the Wall is needed to provide some help for TRUMP’s political supporters alone the boarder states. They will be the contractors.

  • 0

    As an American close to everything that is being discussed here I am amazed at the level of distortion of facts that goes on even in a remote corner of the world like Lanka. Let me try to put it straight if I can.

    Americans elected Trump to solve a lot of problems, one of which is illegal migration. Behind illegal migration are the monsters trifecta, drugs, crime and human trafficking. Liberals directly and indirectly benefit from migration despite these because migrants tend to vote liberal. Its not just “while evangelical” Americans who voted for Trump but a lot of hard working regular Americans including large numbers who migrated to the US legally. The other issue is the US economy. On both these Trump is trying to keep his promises. And in the economic side US is enjoying the best times in recent memory. Even the black unemployment is at an all time low.

    Liberals and Democrats fear that if Trump is allowed to build a wall and defeat the drugs, crime, trafficking hydra then they will be relegated to being losers for ever. Just like the NGOs and “peace employees” of Lanka who did not want to end the barbarism of LTTE, these people want this to continue.

    That is the long and short of it. The rest is just emotion, undue fear of racism, and the feeling of being unimportant and unable to get power that drives the liberals and their acolytes such as the writer Mendis. In 2020 when Trump is re-elected with most likely one of the biggest voter endorsements in US history they will still try to find ways to explain the defeat, pointing fingers at Russia and whatever would be the best topic of the time. Lanka should learn a lesson from Trump and appoint its own Trump, and I can think of only one man who has the charisma and personality for that and his name is Gotabya (or Gota as I would call him). Hope the Lankans come to their senses and do the best by their wonderful country.

    • 2

      “In 2020 when Trump is re-elected with most likely one of the biggest voter endorsements in US history they will still try to find ways to explain the defeat, pointing fingers at Russia and whatever would be the best topic of the time.”

      Hmm. Did you look the other way when the Republicans were shellacked at the mid terms? After all the circus we have, you still think Trump will win in 2020?
      Dream on.

      • 0

        I think that you must take seriously everything that Mano Ratwatte has said above. He is a realist who doesn’t like Trump, but he fears that the fellow may get re-elected.
        Ratwatte is worth heeding on any subject. He is first cousin to Chandrika (CBK), but he is able to view the performance of the Bandaranaike governments objectively (that is to say that he acknowledges their faults.
        Trump is similar to our Rajapaksas. Most of us, liberals with some education, see both as undesirable, but we have to do a lot of work to ensure that they are kept at bay.

        • 0

          Dear Sinhala_Man, Trump is similar to our Rajapaksas? Only seemingly. Rajapaksa cannot hold a candle to Trump. Trump does not swindle State coffers. Trump is egoistic, but not an undesirable. Rajapaksa is egoistic and undesirable.
          In America, almost everyone is Trumplike. In Sri Lanka seldom do we get Rajapaksalikes.

  • 2

    Jay Chambers,
    From what chamber did your mother release you onto this planet? Hope she did the job in a 7/11 toilet in the US because your role model Gota was a professional toilet cleaner there. Gota the Trump or the tramp of Sri Lanka if and only if “Yes we can” and you can too. Please elect Gota the toilet cleaner because we need his buddy Duminda released to transform this country into a NARCO paradise like Sinalowa. Gota and you can name this Sihinna KUDDU LOWA by taking over the cartel form that convict El Chapo.

  • 0

    Jay Chambers true there may be distortion. But your views are the same or worse, I take it as just your views and not true facts. Lankans living in Lanka or abroad are spin masters.

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