Thursday, September 01, 2016

What Wall Street can teach us about Donald Trump’s Wall

No no, not Wall Street bankers. Not Wall Street influence peddlers. Not Wall Street lobbyists, or wheeler-dealers, or bond traders, or or money managers, or quants. I’m talking about Wall Street, the actual street.

See…well, let’s go back to the very beginning. In 1609 Henry Hudson discovers New York Bay, and the river that now bears his name, and the island that’s now known as Manhattan.

By 1625, an Amsterdam outfit called the Dutch East India Company has set up a colony there, mostly to trade beaver furs for export to Europe. Everybody’s making money and everybody’s happy except for the beavers and they’re just….well, giant rats with flat tails and dopey-looking front teeth. They chew down trees and clog up waterways with their dams, so who in the 17th Century gives a damn?

The English, that’s who. They check out the scene and decide they want to take  over the colony and grab its profitable trade for themselves.

See where the streets end on this ancient map of
lower Manhattan? See the straight line below the
star? That's where the Dutch built a defensive
(but useless) Wall. The English simply sailed in.
Today, the only thing left of that wall is the name
of the street where it stood.
The Dutch get wind of this. Since the English are already in New England, more or less to the North, the Dutch figure the English might invade from the North. 

So the Dutch build a defensive wall across the island on the northern border of New Amsterdam, from the Hudson River to the East River. If you look at the map, where all the curved streets end and there’s a straight line running from left to right, that’s where the wall was.

“Lucky us,” the Dutch must have thought. “We’re safe from unwelcome visitors now. We have a wall.”

Umm, they forgot something. The English ignored the wall. Instead, they sailed into New York harbor in 1664  with a handful of ships, cannons bristling, and roughly 450 armed men. And they said something to the Dutch governor to the effect of, “Nice colony you got here, Governor Stuyvesant. It would be a shame if it should accidentally get flattened by cannonballs and all your people got bayoneted or hanged.”

Stuyvesant surrendered. The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam became the English colony of New York. As the city started expanding, the wall was in the way. So they tore it down, and built a street where part of it had stood. Yup. Wall Street.

So what’s this got to do with Donald Trump and the Wall To Keep Out Mexico? Simply this: 

If desperate immigrants from Mexico and Central America can’t walk across the border because there’s a wall in the way, they’ll do what the English navy did, and what Syrian refugees are doing in Europe. They’ll come by boat. 

And instead of just 2,000 miles of Mexican border to wall off, there will be a total, if you include Alaska, of 7,623 miles of Pacific coast, 1631 miles of Gulf coast, and 2,069 miles of Atlantic coast to wall off.

And also the United States of America will be walled off from the sea. No more beach house for you, Mister Billionaire. And also no more cruise ships, no more U.S. naval stations, and no easy way for rivers from the Hudson, to the Mississippi, to the Columbia to empty into the oceans. They'll just back up as the walls become dams. We'll be our own beavers.

And after we get done with the coastlines, we can also wall ourselves off from Canada.

Of course, every wall that walls somebody out, also walls people on the other side in. At that point it will be easier to keep the entire population of the United States prisoner, just as the Berlin Wall imprisoned East Berliners some decades ago. A wall is a wonderful tool for a dictatorship. Try to escape and you will be shot.

So Mister Trump, tear down that wall talk and go shoot off your mouth about something else. As the great American poet Robert Frost tried to tell you, back when you should have been studying him in military prep school instead of using a ruler to measure your, uh, fingers, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."

1 comment:

Steve M. said...

Public Policy Polling reports:

It's widely known that Trump voters support building a wall on the border with Mexico to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country. We find that 31% of them also support building a wall along the Atlantic Ocean to keep Muslims from entering the country from the Middle East. 52% are opposed to that idea.

I'm amazed that support is so low.