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The wall and Donald Trump

The fictive phenomenon of the mercurial Donald Trump is better captured by works of fiction than by journalism. Two novels increasingly mentioned in this regard are Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny" and Herman Melville's "Moby Dick."

Herman Wouk's 1951 novel tells of a group of Navy officers who remove from command of the minesweeper Caine its volatile, erratic Captain Queeg. Played in the subsequent movie by Humphrey Bogart, Queeg nervously spins a pair of ball bearings in his hand while obsessing about his stolen strawberries.

Trump's own erratic behavior has led to talk about removing him from office through the 25th Amendment, which spells out a legal procedure to remove a president believed to be "unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office," due to mental or physical incapacitation.

Lately, Trump's narcissistic obsession with his wall on the southern border is best exemplified by another fictional captain, Ahab, in Melville's Moby Dick. In the very first chapter, the book's narrator, Ishmael, refers to "the deeper meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting ... image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned." Captain Ahab, similarly, sacrifices all and everyone in his vengeful quest for the white whale, projecting his own malice on this dumb beast.

His self-delusion, notes Ishmael, "is the key to it all": ... "the image of the ungraspable phantom of life," through which Narcissus, and also Ahab, constructs an ideal self-image and an alternative reality, a redemption from impotence and insignificance.

How to explain Trump's wall and its overpowering, malicious meaninglessness? Later in the book, Ahab asks: "How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall ... Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it.... Talk not to me of blasphemy.... I'd strike the sun if it insulted me.... Who's over me? Truth hath no confines."


Donald Trump says a wall will keep the Mexicans out. Without getting into whether or not this is a good idea, consider whether it'll be effective.

Illegal immigrants are already crossing (and sometimes dying) in treks across deserts or over mountains. Given the challenges posed by Mother Nature in these remote areas, will the addition of a wall make that much of a difference? It seems unlikely. It'll just drive up sales in grappling hooks, rope, ladders, or wire snips, depending on the type of wall or fence that's constructed.

So to protect the southern border, we will need to continue patrolling and enforcement. In fact, if we build a steel-slat fence, we'll need to keep an eye on it, or we'll soon find that scrappers have cut out sections of and recycled them for profit.

So if we're going to have to guard it anyway, why spend the money on a border wall? If it would save us money long-term, perhaps – but it won't.

It makes sense to have border fences near urban areas, but fences are already in such places. As cities build up, perhaps it'll make sense to extend some of these fences – and perhaps there are a few places where this would make sense now. But building a wall the entire length of the border seems a fool-headed, ineffective, ugly, environmentally-hostile, and expensive solution.

Let's figure out a sane compromise and get our government working again.


Am I the only one that thinks like this?

I currently pay $1000 a month for health care (no dental, no eye care, no hearing care) with a $3700 deductible for my wife and me. So if I paid an extra, let's say, $800 a month in taxes for single-payer health care for all and got all of the above, I'd be way ahead. And let's cut the defense budget to help pay for it and for real infrastructure and real green jobs. And college for all.

The president says 90 percent of the drugs come through the southern border, but the facts are that at least 95 percent of that comes over the border in trucks and cars at the legal border crossings. And much of the drugs carried over by illegal folks is pot that in most states, I hope, will soon be legal. Isn't the wall a joke?

Wake up, America!


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