Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fences and Good Neighbors

The United States Senate has pretty much decided that building a wall along our border with Mexico is a good idea. There is a lot about building such a wall that disturbs me, but the reason given to justify such an edifice cuts deeply into my soul. An article in yesterday's NY Times nicely sets forth that reason:

The Senate fence measure was embodied in an amendment offered by Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who borrowed from the poet Robert Frost. "Good fences make good neighbors," he said. "Fences don't make bad neighbors."

Obviously Mr. Sessions has never bothered to read the poem his comment is meant to reference. If he had, he would have discovered that the poet held the exact opposite opinion about walls.The full text of the poem "Mending Wall" is available here. The pertinent section is the last part of the poem.

"Why do they make good neighbors? 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 neighbors."


Blogger NYMary said...

You're right, of course. But then they don't *do* moral complexity.

In his defense, I've never heard Sessions say a single thing that suggested he wasn't functionally illiterate.

5:32 AM  

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