Opinion

The border wall rage

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

“There has never been a perfect government because men have passions; and if they did not have passions, there would be no need for government.” (Voltaire)

When Donald Trump ran for office in 2016 one of his memorable calls of notice was to build a border wall. This had a political interest as well as psychological meaning. It was incendiary to his opponents but inspired appreciation by his followers. Despite the rage of hate by his opponents, the border wall was put under construction. Now, with his election loss, continuing the border wall is in doubt. Nonetheless, the Border wall conflict is a significant and meaningful symbol of modern America. The wall was not just a contest over-treating immigrants to a specific manner of entering the United States. It is also a message to America, as well as the world, that we need some change of behavior; personal as well as political.

Trump’s election was not just about the desire for economic change even though sound economic policies were needed. The Trump election was a signal desire for America to stop losing limits of behavior. The border wall is a limit of action. It is a manifestation of law and order. Trump represents a time past when law and order and civility seemed more at work in America than today. Indeed, the riots in cities were like a disturbed child raging against the strength of the father. Trump, as president, represented a patriarch resurrected, a strong male leader as opposed to the weak leadership of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Moreso, he was a male leader that argued for strong borders of behavior like a father saying to his kin, behave. This was a message sent to the country; border control means boundary control of our national family.

Trump’s border wall and indeed the election of Trump, symbolize that America needed law and order, boundaries of behavior for the country and most importantly, the family home. It is apparent that modern families are divorcing constantly, children are being raised by a single parent, mostly the mother, leaving the fathers less influential in the lives of their children. Couples also live together unmarried, bear children, then break up, leaving the children without their father to live with. Boundaries of family life are breaking up as well as boundaries of country and culture as symbolized by the border conflict. What happens in the home is happening in the culture. At one-time divorce was simply uncommon. Today, it is easy, common, resulting in damage to children. Therapists working with children can attest to those consequences. These chaotic arrangements leave children with no firm identity of self. Consequently, no discipline at home, no civility, no love of law and order. Borders in civil life and the country start in the home. 

So, what does this have to do with Trump? Everything.

Trump’s personality and behavior signified law and order; borders of behavior. He was the limit setter being erroneously called the authoritarian, the dictator.  He was appreciated by his followers because he appealed to their desire for law and order, the borders of life. He offered strength when strength was needed. Consider Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama who displayed weakness as a leader in various ways but especially by saying America would lead from behind. Strong leaders don’t lead from behind. This is not strength, it is not America first. It is passivity. So, is a weak border.

So, what does the border wall have to do with divorce, unmarried couples, fatherless children? Limits. America today is losing behavior limits, in the family and political life. The border wall behavior and disagreement manifest the loss of borders in our personal and political lives. Political life manifests personal life. One could argue that America is just developing more open and better behaviors. Not so, boundaries of behavior, are disappearing. For example, the way men treat women today is far less courteous than in the past. For example, men sitting in a room once stood when a woman walked in and took their hats off when greeting a woman. Now when a woman walks into a room of men, the men don’t stand. 

And, the men wear their hats, backwards. Manners are limits of behavior. Women once were believed to be the moral centers of behavior in the family. Families set limits; broken families don’t put up effective borders of behavior. A family without borders, a country without borders, needs leadership that is effective, strong. That was the appeal of Trump and his opposition; strength of limits.

Trump represents borders, limits of behavior. It has been said that Trump told his children when they were growing up not to drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs like cocaine. Plus, Trump doesn’t drink, take drugs or smoke. Limits. That is a father setting borders of behavior for his kids. Trump’s followers wanted civil law and borders, strong leadership but his opponents preferred weak limits and therefore, weak leadership. That is why Trump was so hated and called a dictator; he was setting limits. Trump was like a new father in a family that was out of control, lacking a border agent. To some people, Trump may have a personality that can be irritating, but despite that, the rage and opposition to Trump and his border wall was because he represented the man of the past, head of the family, living in the present, setting limits sorely needed in the family and culture today.

Ben Feldman
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