AMEND CORNER: Of walls and bigots


Well, it’s time to put on my loyal opposition hat again and talk about politics.

I read recently that our president, determined to waste money on a useless great wall along the border with Mexico, has asked for proposals from possible builders. Apparently, hundreds of companies have actually submitted proposals.

Not all of the proposals are serious. In fact, some of them are actually designed by opponents of the wall and meant to be ridiculous. My favorite is a wall consisting of organ pipes. It would have doors every 20 feet or so, but to pass through them, a refugee would have to sit down at a keyboard and play a tune before he could pass through.

Some of them, though, are deadly serious, which is not surprising. The prospect of milking the federal treasury for mega-millions of dollars is pretty tempting — especially on a cockamamy project like this one. Its construction over miles of difficult terrain will no doubt encounter thousands of difficulties, requiring modifications in the location, the design or the materials in the wall. The result will be delays and cost overruns, so the cost of the wall will be well above the original estimates, just as it is with almost any federal project.

Lest anyone is expecting this cost will be borne by Mexico, I’m betting that’s a pipe dream. In fact, President Trump will be lucky to get Congress to pay for it, let alone Mexico. If it is built, we will pay for it, one way or another.

Even if he does get funding, building the wall will be pointless. Reports are that border crossings are already down without it, apparently because of tougher action aimed at deporting undocumented immigrants. That may be, but it might also be that people wanting to enter the U.S. are finding another way into the country.

Unfortunately, this proposed wall is symbolic of a troubling trend in our country. We are seeing a number of violent attacks by individuals driven by bigotry on people who don’t “look American.”

In Kansas, for example, a man in a bar fired on two Indian immigrants, killing one, after telling them to “get out of my country.” Both men were working in the U.S., and were legally in the country.

In Washington state, a Sikh man was shot as he worked on his car, and told to “go back to your own country.” Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims because they wear turbans and that may have motivated the shooter. The two religions are different, and Sikhs have sometimes been persecuted by Muslims, but ignorance of that fact may lead some to attack Sikhs.

The most egregious attack was carried out by a young man from Maryland, who traveled to New York City specifically to kill African-American men. His victim was a likable and generous man who looked out for his neighborhood and bore no bad will to anyone. Reportedly, the killer said he had planned such an attack for several years because he hates black men dating white women. He hoped his attack would stop that from happening.

These incidents are of particular concern to me because of my daughter’s family. Our son-in-law is an immigrant who came to America from Cambodia as a refugee. His ancestry is Chinese. Given the current antipathy toward immigrants by some Americans, he could easily become the object of someone’s bigotry. The same is true of our grandchildren. Their features aren’t obviously Asian and they could be mistaken as immigrants from India because of their coloring.

I don’t lie awake nights worrying about them — after all, our other grandchildren live in an Islamic country near where terrorists have been a problem — but I am concerned, given the blatant acts carried out by bigots here at home. I’m not blaming these acts all on President Trump, as some do. I know racial and ethnic bigotry came to America with the first Europeans who settled here, and it has never gone away. It normally lies under the surface, but there’s always the danger that it will bubble up into violence, especially when Americans become fearful or need a scapegoat to blame their troubles on, no matter who the president might be.

I do, though, wish the president would condemn attacks such as those I have cited more pointedly. He should at least denounce them as strongly as he denounces terrorists and immigrants who commit crimes.

More than that, I wish he would end his obsession with building a wall. Building it won’t do anything positive for us, and stopping it would be a sign that bigotry, whether against immigrants or ethnic and racial minorities, is not an American value.