Robert Frost wrote that, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While this may be a poetic truism, it still begs the question on whether these structures are positive. Most all of us have “walls” both figurative and physical. Our houses have them, usually our yards and gardens are partitioned by them.
But what about nations? The Oracle at Delphi had indicated that Athens would be preserved by a wall of wood. And true enough the Battle of Salamis proved that “the wall” of the Greek fleet was enough to forestall a Persian invasion. That same wall, however, was not capable of stopping the Spartans seventy-some years later. Nor did the massive undertaking of China’s “Great Wall,” stop the invasion of the Mongols.
In more recent times we can reflect that Berlin’s wall, had a less than complete success at keeping the subjugated people in; and the DMZ of Korea is only effective because corresponding troop build-ups on each side of the border. It does not provide “protection” in and of itself. Even Israel’s so-called “security wall” is riddled with breaches and tunnels.
I am not going to make a political statement here on the idea of national sovereignty, and the right of nations to secure their borders. That is not my concern. I penned the previous paragraphs more philosophically as to the advisability of such structures (in any country).
There is a fundamental moral question here too. Is it right for humans to place barriers between themselves and others? This is not focusing on the aforementioned walls, but in our stand-offishness with others. I began this post with a quote from a poet, so I will close with one as well. John Donne wrote that “No man is an island.” As humans we need each other. Isolation (whether inflicted, or self-imposed) brings loneliness, and potentially depression. Real joy is in sharing. There is a spiritual truth in that. As the Hebrews writer said, “Let brotherly love continue (Heb 13:1).”