Tuesday, March 22, 2011


If Giuseppe Verdi had been born in this country he'd have been known as Joe Green. Whether he would have composed 28 operas is one of those what ifs. Place does mean something but probably not as much as it did in the 19th century. Like it or not we live with connectivity as never before.

Japan claims our front page and our consciousness as we track its radioactive cloud. Suddenly we know cities in Libya, like it was Wisconsin. The global village is an amorphous glob; push it here and it pops up there. A nuclear belch can poison our next inhalation like an inter-continental missile. Tsunamis are undocumented visitors to our shores. Monarchs are migrating, butterflies and tyrants, both.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, in physics and social movements. Accelerated change, for some, means dislocation, psychically and otherwise. I see the Teabaggers as the party of push-back to change. In times of upheaval, conservatives pander to our fears. Resistance takes the form of nostalgia as well as xenophobia, racism, weaponry and fundamentalism. Their message is toxic. Goebbel's playbook of lies said loud and often enough claim an undeserved status for equal time in our heads.

One way to manifest fear is the building of walls. From gated communities to our Mexican border fence to the Israeli wall, barriers have sprung up which create only an illusion of safety. In fact, walls disperse crossings with suicide bombers, missiles, biological weapons and un-manned drones.

Globalization is a fact of our lives. Money moves at the speed of a hunch. Transcontinental travel disseminates germs. Europe imports its colonials. China is our bank. A single car has parts from seven countries. The Al Qaeda we are chasing in Waziristan is now in Yemen or Iraq or Brooklyn. Walls are an anachronism; good mostly for hand ball.

Fear may be assuaged somewhat but the crimes, smuggling or migrations go on undiminished. When psychic space is defined it deludes the people within but only challenges those without, to go over, under or around. Malignant ideas find their way through. They are best fought with better models, not higher walls.

After millennia of blood-soaked soil Europe has finally evolved to a single currency and the removal of border fences. Would that we might, one day, erase our separate states into regions and then, dare I say it, into one nation, indivisible.

In our new planetary village without walls maybe Giuseppe Verdi from Pittsburgh might play defensive tackle in the NFL and Mean Joe Greene could have been the toast of La Scala. Of course all this juxtaposing would require considerable tampering with the clock.

I should amend this by saying that my opposition to walls is meant, metaphorically. Certain countries are still in their tribal stage and must first assert their nationhood apart from their neighbors. Sovereignty may be a necessary step before a more regional consciousness can prevail. However I still question the usefulness of partitions.

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