Italo Calvino, Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels, once wrote: “If you build a wall, you have to think about what you leave outside”.
There are thousands of kilometers of grey borders in the world made of reinforced concrete. They were erected by people to protect themselves from other people different by sexual preference, religion, race or ethnicity, economic condition, political party, nationality. These walls draw the line between what people own and what it belongs to their neighbours. These ones are high borders and often we cannot see them ending.
But what we can see on them are the images, the colors, the inscriptions: the choked voices of those who want to write what they think on that wall, the ideas of those who imagine what can find on the other side of the border, trying to give meaning to that dividing line.
Despite the globalization, the great detente and the demolition of the wall built in the heart of Europe, there has been no concrete example of cohesion policies nor the effort of thinking that borders are not divisions, but a point of connection between races, religions and ideas. Another possibility of enriching our cultural identity and one more way of promoting intercultural dialogue and mutual exchange.
The Washington Post reports that between 1950 and 2011 the list of world’s walls has been increasing: in the middle of 21st century, there were four barriers, they became about fifteen when the Berlin wall was knocked down and they almost reached fifty after the attacks of September 11th. Some examples are from all over the world: the wall of Tijuana, the wall that separates Israel from Palestine in West Bank territory, the barbed-wire barriers of Ceuta and Melilla, an iron grid that you can watch through and see the sea.
During the US presidential election campaign, Donald Trump explained that for his own security strategy it would be necessary to build the wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. Officially, the reason why he wanted the US-Mexico border wall was to prevent the entry of irregular migrants into the States and block drug trafficking.
Two years later, families were deported and children were separated by their parents. President Trump is still talking about the construction of the border and he recently declared a state of national emergency in order to fund the wall, circumventing congressional opposition. In response to the President’s decision, a coalition of 16 states, including the democratic California and New York, challenged Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on the border wall. Maybe the truth lies beyond Mr. Trump’s words pronounced during his speech announcing the new plan: “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster”.
The “wall of shame” is a metal sheet running along the barrier between the two countries. More than six hundred thousand people were arrested in an attempt to cross the border illegally and thousands more died.
Somewhere along the line, on the US-Mexico border wall you can read: “Tambien de este lado hay suenos” – There are dreams on this side, too.
A sentence on the Israeli – Palestine barrier quotes Martin L. King: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”.
A lot of barriers are still standing all over the world, and none of them go unnoticed: “There are many walls that can’t be seen, still remain to be broken down”, written on what is left of the Berlin wall.
There is the border in the Southern hemisphere between Botswana and Zimbabwe. The barbed-wire fence is 2 meters high and runs for 500 kilometres.
“No more silent consent or loud indifference. We want to scream and break this wall of silence for justice”, it stays on the Palestinian wall.
In Asia, there is the 3,323 kilometres barbed-wire barrier between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control that separates the valley of Kashmir in two territories.
“A country is not only what it does. It is also what it tolerates”, on Palestinian Wall.
In the continent, there are also the wall between India and Bangladesh, electrified at some stretches, built with the main purpose of preventing smuggling of narcotics, the one between Turkey and Syria aimed at preventing illegal crossings and smuggling from Syria into Turkey, the one between Hong Kong and China established to prevent migrants from China and other illegal activities, the border that Hungary built on its boundaries with Serbia and Croatia, constructed with the aim to ensure border security by preventing asylum-seekers and immigrants from entering and the Egypt–Israel barrier completed at the end of 2013, officially built to curb the influx of illegal migrants from African countries.
“Stop killing my sons, brothers, husbands, fathers”. This mural appears on the Peace Wall in Palestine.
A conversation between the street artist Banksy and a Palestinian man – “Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful; Banksy: Thanks; Old man: We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home”.
Then in Europe, there are the peace lines, a series of separation barriers in Northern Ireland that divide predominantly Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighbourhoods from predominantly Loyalist and Unionist Protestant neighbourhoods.
“If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral,” it reads on Gaza wall. And going on, “we should build bridges, not walls”.
Hope is written on the walls, you must just stop and read.