Wonder Wall 

A simplistic, impractical, and ineffectual idea is bringing us all down.

Humans start lying at about age two. I caught my otherwise angelic niece in the most minor fib — about whether she'd been to the potty. What struck me wasn't the ease with which she lied right to my face, but how quickly she realized her mendacity would catch up to her. It's as if I could see the gears turning in her head as she weighed her options. Take the praise and continue the lie, only to later be exposed as full of crap, both literally and figuratively? Or tell the truth and avoid whatever potential messes await? She looked at me, she looked at her mom, and she blurted: "I'M JUST KIDDING! HA HA HA."

If only our nation's president could be so reasoned and mature. Imagine being so committed to an idea that you're willing to shut down the federal government over it. Now imagine it's an idea that everyone has told you is simplistic, impractical, and ineffectual. Listen, hear me out — it's a wall. But not just any wall. A big beautiful $20 billion dollar wall for keeping the brown people out. Mr. Deal Man never expected Democrats to say "Sure, we'll do your wall, whatever" just to watch him and his band of nationalists and neophytes blow it again. Get your big beautiful wall, but get owned by libs in the process? Talk about a catch-22.

click to enlarge The Wall - VACLAV LANG | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Vaclav Lang | Dreamstime.com
  • The Wall

For a few years now, I have wondered how no one has sufficiently explained to Mr. Trump that planes can fly over walls, even 55-foot-tall ones. One would think someone who owned an airline would have considered that. Overstays, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, have outnumbered border crossers every year for the past decade. These are people who come here legally and allow their visas to expire, for whatever reason. Maybe war broke out or a natural disaster happened back home. Maybe they like the food better. A wall isn't going to keep them out. Most unauthorized immigrants have been here more than a decade, and a third of them didn't come from Mexico. The number of apprehensions at the border between the U.S. and Mexico dropped by about half last year, with virtually no changes in enforcement. Maybe people are "flooding in" from elsewhere. Maybe they're flying. Maybe they don't want to live in a shithole where that guy is in charge.

To hear the president tell it, the border is like Texarkana, where you can just hopscotch between countries. "Tee hee! I'm in Mexico! Tee hee! Now I'm in Arizona!" And drugs are imported by a guy throwing a bag of drugs to his buddy on the other side. If it were that easy, it wouldn't be called smuggling. In reality, most illegal drugs arrive by vehicles, with the product hidden in creative ways. Some drugs arrive disguised as cargo. Maybe your cheap Mexican produce made its journey alongside some hollowed-out watermelons full of heroin. Again, nothing a wall could contain.

He knows these things. He could have ended the charade on day one by saying "Folks, the wall is a metaphor." But the lie has consumed him and there's no turning back. Chief of staff John Kelly gave his boss the perfect out, saying Trump's views on the wall had evolved since he was a candidate. He could have said (tweeted, probably) "General Kelly is right. As president, I have more information at my disposal. Coming from a more knowledgeable place, I've concluded a wall is a bad investment. I know this will disappoint some people, but I took an oath to lead the entire country, and I hope you'll understand that I feel this is in our best interest."

He could have instead pledged to address the opioid crisis in a meaningful way beyond declaring an emergency — a move that would actually help the white rural voters I keep reading about in The New York Times. He carried four out of the five states with the highest rates of opioid-related deaths — and lost by less than half a percentage point in the fifth. Addressing the root cause would stem demand for those backpacks full of heroin that allegedly keep hitting people over the head.

But that's not what any of this is about, which makes last weekend's shutdown so much more enraging than the previous. Holding children's health care and DREAMers' futures hostage in exchange for hardline and heartless immigration policy isn't about priorities or responsible spending or even keeping the country safe. It's catnip for the GOP's new base of white-grievance rage-aholics, who are the only ones troubled by the presence of immigrants in this once-welcoming nation.

There were so many ways to compromise without looking like a weak loser who sucks at deals, but now the party that controls both houses of Congress and the presidency is so committed to half-baked soundbyte strategies they can't even keep the government from shutting down. What a time.

Jen Clarke is a digital marketing specialist and an unapologetic Memphian.

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