Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"The Wall"

Two little words yet they require time and place to be defined. “The Wall” for the past two years in Trump-speak is clap-trap for his so-called base, pandering to their fear and loathing. The words get a loud shrug from most fiscally-conscious Senators across the aisle and sneers and jeers from the majority of Americans. But The Wall has a history with entirely different references for me and for other people at other times.

Though it is over 2,000 years old, in parts, the Great Wall of China is still the Mother of all walls snaking over 13,000 miles. Contrary to a rumor (I just started) it is not the inscrutable origin of Chinese hand ball. The emperor Trump of his day had it built to keep out those nasty foreign invaders and to protect the Silk Road from assorted rapists and bandits.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the map, the Western Wall, aka Wailing Wall, was built on the temple mount. Maybe Trump got his idea from here where messages are left, holier than tweets.  However it is well-known that neither Yahweh nor Trump answer mail.

Fast forward a couple of millennia and here I am throwing my trusted tennis ball against an exterior Wall I deemed to be holy. It stretched about one hundred feet. Long enough on the inside to accommodate about ten stools at a soda fountain plus the prescription department of my father’s drug store. It did attain a kind of holiness when the space became a store-front synagogue after my father went out of business during World War II. I was yanked in one day to make a minyan on my way to play baseball in the schoolyard. There I stood with my 1st baseman’s mitt mumbling toward the raised place against the Wall where my father once presided between globes of colored water.

The best seller in 1950 was John Hersey’s novel, The Wall, which read like dramatic reportage of the plight of over 400,000 Jews confined in the Warsaw Ghetto. The book describes the heroism of several characters during the uprising against the Nazis. Hersey’s earlier book, Hiroshima, was possibly the first of the so-called New Journalism which merged fiction and nonfiction. No Wall there.

Though it was written before the First World War, I first came across Robert Frost’s, Mending Wall, in high school. I tried to memorize it but couldn’t. The first line is the poet’s tell, Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. It is the voice of the natural world… That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it and spills the upper boulders in the sun. Think Sisyphus. Frost gently mocks his neighbor who mindlessly repeats the old adage that, Good fences make good neighbors. The narrator observes that he seems to move in darkness and will not go beyond his father’s saying. Are you listening, Donald? No, probably not.

In Germany for three decades The Wall referred unmistakably to that dreaded and dreadful one separating West from East Berlin. What would John Le Carre have done without it? Chunks are now selling on e-Bay for $11.95.

In 1963 the thought of a Wall conjured the one my brother drove his car into on a mountain road. He was a troubled guy who loved jazz. I like to think he heard some Blues solo, in an alcoholic haze, which he needed to chase and penetrate. He died instantly maybe finding the promised place inside that Wall.

Our most honored Wall is Maya Lin’s art work on the Washington Mall which memorializes the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who gave their lives fighting the Vietnam war…which in some ways has never ended. Two acres of war dead. Were they too dumb to skip to Canada or too brave? Or too poor to have a doctor sign off on bone spurs in their heels like our illustrious president? This Wall is all the more powerful and poignant for not depicting the usual patriotism but honoring each of the fallen. It was privately funded by 275,000 donors. Though it was divisive at its inception it has become the most visited of all Washington monuments and still a work in progress with 300 names added since the installation and with daily offerings of flowers, letters even dog-tags left at the base. A Wall which embodies an America in its national folly and individual heroism.

To end on a more personal note Peggy will soon be breaking out of rehab going over the Wall.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful as always and I am so glad Peggy is breaking out and going over the wall!