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A historic monument in the making
Scripps Howard News Service


October 04, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Every generation builds its great monuments, hoping that they will stand testament to history.

The Egyptians had the pyramids; the Romans, their coliseums and great aqueducts; the Europeans, their soaring cathedrals; and in our own country such generational monuments as Mount Rushmore, Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System.

And now, thanks to Congress, our generation is getting its own monument - the Great U.S.-Mexico Border Fence. And a fine fence it will be, one we can be proud of - a double-layered fence 15 feet high of metal plates and wire mesh with lights, cameras, sensors and microphones to detect the telltale rustle of Latin Americans determined to mow our grass.

gif border wall

Mexican Wall
Cam Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

The fence will cost $1.2 billion, meaning we can proudly take foreign visitors there, point to our creation baking in the desert heat and say, "See that fence there? It cost $1.2 billion. Bet you don't have anything like it back in Norway."

The fence will cover 700 miles of our 2,000-mile border with Mexico, which is a little like buying a 7-foot ladder to paint a 20-foot ceiling, but I think we can agree we don't want to hear that kind of negative talk.

Years from now, our descendants will marvel at our handiwork and say, "Now that was a fence-building generation. They lost New Orleans, but those old-timers knew how to build a fence, yes sir."

Maybe, as is said of the Great Wall of China, the fence will be visible from outer space, at dusk the setting sun picking out in sharp relief the shadow of barbed wire on the desert floor.

With all due regard to Teddy Roosevelt, this is George W. Bush's Panama Canal.

If a fence is to be our monument, it is perhaps worth comparing with the great barriers of history.

That Great Wall stretches 4,163 miles across China. We can beat that. Our border with Canada is 5,500 miles. The Great Wall was built to keep out the wild tribes of the steppes out of China proper. But it wasn't even a speed bump for the Mongols; the Manchus bribed their way through and the Japanese overran it in two days.

gif US Border

US border tightens
Patrick Corrigan, The Toronto Star
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

So maybe that's not the best example.

There was Hadrian's Wall, 74 miles across the north of England intended to keep the savage tribes of Scotland out of Roman Britain. It didn't work. The Romans left. And the Scots and the Scots-Irish wound up over here, where, if you believe James Webb's "Born Fighting," they started some of our wars just so they could fight in them and gleefully joined in the rest.

OK, so that one didn't work out real well.

Here's one for you - the Maginot Line, 400 miles of forts, tunnels and pillboxes between France and Germany and Belgium intended to discourage a German invasion and repulse the Germans if they were so foolish as to try. The French left a gap for the Ardennes Forest, thought to be impenetrable, so the Germans attacked there and France fell 33 days later.

Let's keep moving on here.

How about the Iron Curtain? Barbed wire, minefields, watchtowers, dogs and border troops, stretching, as Churchill put it, from Stettin on the Baltic and Trieste on the Adriatic. And how about its little brother, the Berlin Wall, 76 miles of concrete slabs and barbed wire surrounding West Berlin

The Iron Curtain was designed to ensure that the Soviet Union and communism lasted forever, or at least to the moment of their ultimate triumph, and the Berlin Wall was intended to keep pernicious agents of capitalism and imperialism from defiling East German socialism.

Listen, this isn't quite working out the way I thought it would. But when it's finished, the Great Border Fence will be a monument we can all be proud of. Really.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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