I caught this snippet via the New York Times today:
“Border wall funding: President Trump plans to divert $7.2 billion from the military for the construction of a wall on the southern border, two people familiar with the plans told The Times. Congress set aside $1.375 billion for it last month.”
Diverting money that’s been appropriated by Congress is an impeachable offense, but the Democrats will do little since they know Trump will spin their opposition as being pro-immigrant and anti-American, irrespective of the lies contained in that spin.
Trump was elected in part through his fear-mongering about immigrants (he spoke of murderers, rapists, gang members, even Muslim terrorists hidden within the “caravans” approaching America’s southern border). “Build the wall” is a popular chant at his rallies, and Trump knows the issue still stirs up his base.
What’s it all about? Recently I was reading “Shadow of the Silk Road,” by Colin Thubron. This is what Thubron had to say about the Great Wall of China:
As a true bulwark the Wall was senseless. Huns, Mongols, Manchus overswept it almost at will. The Sinologist Owen Lattimore proposed that it was built to keep the Chinese in rather than the nomads out. Perhaps, unwittingly, it was less a physical defence than a monstrous definition. It separated civilisation from barbarism, light from darkness. It was an act of shuddering denial: over there is not what we are. And it was steeped in fear. [Emphasis in original.]
“Over there is not what we are”: Trump recognizes how “his” wall serves as a dividing line between the “good” people (Americans) versus the “bad hombres” (his term) seeking to “invade” America. And it is, as Thubron says, both a monstrous definition and an act of shuddering denial.
Of course, the wall already exists, as Greg Grandin notes in his book, “The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America.” Trump merely wants to lengthen it, mostly in areas where a wall is redundant due to already forbidding terrain.
But the wall is not about protecting America from “hordes” of “invaders.” It’s about defining America in retrograde ways, contrasting the alleged barbarism of brown-skinned people with the civilization of (mostly) White America.
Walls demarcate and divide. They are also a denial of common humanity. They pit us against them in battles over turf. In short, they’re a perfect symbol for Trump’s vision of greatness.