Sunday, May 21, 2006

Good fences make good...

A year ago, I did a post on Mexico objecting to the proposed superfence on our shared border. A lot has changed since then (you may recall a few marches here or there), but the basic arguments for and against open borders remains.

Upon voting for the latest version of the fence, Senator Jefferson Sessions (R-AL) quoted, with no trace of irony, a line from Robert Frost's Mending Wall: "'Good fences make good neighbors.' Fences don’t make bad neighbors."

As David Benjamin observed in Common

If Sessions had actually read the poem, he would've remembered that his quote is a line repeated mindlessly not by the poem's narrator (Frost), but by his neighbor, who is a fool. Frost's neighbor is stuck in his ways and blind to the reality that the fence keeps nothing out and holds nothing in. It is broken by nature, beseiged by hunters, undone by gravity and sabotaged (seemingly) by elves.

The neighbor is oblivious to Frost’s irony, and so Frost every spring -- magnanimously -- accepts the idiot ritual of mending the useless wall and tolerating the other man’s hand-me-down hogwash about good fences making good neighbors.

The moral of the poem is the opposite of Sen. Session’s assertion. It is that "Before I build a wall I'd ask to know/ What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offense."

The real reprise of "Mending Wall" is this: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."


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