Saturday, November 21, 2015

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

“Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence.” — Robert Frost, Mending Wall, 1914

ROBERT FROST knew what he was talking about. I have a friend on Facebook who, although I believe him to be in many ways a kind person, is a fervent anti-immigrationist. Build the wall, he shouts!! Send the Mexicans back to Mexico!

The hypocrisy of this by-product of immigrants (he's a distant relative, so I know something about his lineage) railing about the "immigrant problem" is oxymoronic. It's as if because his immigrant forebears arrived on these shores longer ago than the current crop — that somehow makes his antecedents (and him) "real Americans" as opposed to the latest arrivals who are unwelcome trash. 

My grandpa, born in 1889, told me stories about how hated Irish immigrants were when they came to America in great numbers. "Dirty Irish" was a common epithet, and "No Irish Need Apply" signs were abundant. At first they could only get the lowliest work: cleaners, launderers, servants, coal miners, railroad builders, muckers, manual laborers — jobs that no one else wanted, but gradually they worked their way up the ladder and into the fabric of society.

Now descendants of those same immigrants and those from other countries want to keep today's immigrants out. 

What is it about human beings, that once having been included, turn right around and seek to exclude others? What is this need to feel better than someone else? I don't get it!!

I don't know lots of immigrants well, a handful perhaps. I know three from Vietnam. One works seven days a week, nine hours a day, as a manicurist. Another started her own business as a seamstress and works six days a week. Her husband worked full time as a printer until kidney disease forced him to retire. He now assists her in her shop as best he can. 

Two Bosnian immigrants I know both started businesses, one as an electrical contractor, the other started a pizza restaurant. The thing they have in common besides their country of origin? Working literally day and night seven days a week. A Mexican immigrant I know also started his own company as a builder and remodeler, willing to do dirtier work for lower wages than others will accept just to be able to earn a living.

Paul and I got to know two young men from Ukraine who immigrated to Chicago and went to work in a pizza restaurant. They worked hard, saved their money, and when a franchise became available in Des Moines because someone else failed at it, they bought it. Working seven days a week, they turned it around, and when another failing location became available elsewhere, they bought it too. 

Imagine leaving your home and family right now, going to a country where you don't speak the language, or at best very little of it — and through grit, persistence and long, long hours you manage to start a business, buy a home and send your kids to college. Think of the fortitude and moxie that takes. 

And so I ask, what is it about these smart, industrious people that America doesn't want? Collectively, they work harder than most born-and-bred Americans I know, doing useful work and adding value to the economy.

And for those who want to build a wall between the US and Mexico, consider this. You may be keeping Mexicans in instead of keeping them out because more of them are leaving the US than are coming in! 

The below article is from ABC News. Robert Frosts poem, Mending Wall, follows it.

Study Finds More Mexicans Leaving the US Than Coming

By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

November 19, 2015

More Mexicans are leaving than moving into the United States, reversing the flow of a half-century of mass migration, according to a study published Thursday.

The Pew Research Center found that slightly more than 1 million Mexicans and their families, including American-born children, left the U.S. for Mexico from 2009 to 2014. During the same five years, 870,000 Mexicans came to the U.S., resulting in a net flow to Mexico of 140,000.

The desire to reunite families is the main reason more Mexicans are moving south than north, Pew found. The sluggish U.S. economic recovery and tougher border enforcement are other key factors.

The era of mass migration from Mexico is "at an end," declared Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew's director of Hispanic research.

The finding follows a Pew study in 2012 that found net migration between the two countries was near zero, so this represents a turning point in one of the largest mass migrations in U.S. history. More than 16 million Mexicans moved to the United States from 1965 to 2015, more than from any other country.

Click here to read the entire Associated Press article.

Mending Wall

By Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."


  1. You ask the right questions and dig below the surface to find salient facts. That's not the picture most folks get and it changes the answer. Another terrific post Kelly.

  2. Two small additions - I believe when people are afraid, they resort to putting others down. And the fear that if those on the bottom will rise up to treat us as crappy as we're treating them is the other driving force. Those fears have been driven and the flames fanned by those who would benefit from the hatred and division.