Borders and Boundaries: Don’t Fence Me In

On a walk through my neighborhood, which contains a sizable number of kids, something seemed amiss. As we wandered along, I could not quite put my finger on it, but way in the back of my mind the voices were chattering.

They weren’t a chorus of alarm, panic, or fear, but they noticed something. Some incongruity reverberated in my mind.

Then it bubbled to the surface. They were no kids anywhere playing outside.

School was out.

The weather was a perfect summer day of 75 degrees, bright sun, no humidity, and not a thundercloud in sight.

Yet the streets were empty of kids being kids.

I then noticed the fences. Artificial borders and boundaries restricting what for us growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island, in the 1960s was the main inter-yard highway, backyards.

The street was for bikes, pickup baseball games, and games of kick-the-can, but the backyards were our byways to adventure, to the homes of friends, and the path home when necessary.

The only border I knew of during my youth was the limitation of how far my legs could take me between the first light of morning—as my neighborhood friends gathered to enjoy, not plan, the day by just following our whim and fancy—and when we had to return by sundown.

We faced no serious fence boundaries. Perhaps the occasional split-rail fence, more for sitting on then keeping us out, but no real impediment to our wanderings. During school, I could walk from my house and never touch the road until I got almost the whole way to the bus stop.

The borders and boundaries we faced were through learned behavior—understanding that some, usually without children, preferred us to detour around their yards, which we easily did by heading off into the boundless woods surrounding us.

As I continued on our walk, seeing almost every yard fenced in with no evidence of well-worn paths between them, I could not help but think we’ve lost some great opportunity for kids to learn boundaries and borders of behavior by substituting more forced restrictions out of some sense of protecting them.

We owe kids more than the safety of the moment. We have an obligation to teach them to navigate life — with all its risks — by recognizing borders and boundaries not by the fences we build around them but by inculcating the sense of right and wrong.

Some say that good fences make good neighbors. I have my doubts. I think they prevent adults who’ve lost the lessons of life, or never learned them, from acting like fools. Such fences serve the same purpose as a cage in a zoo. They don’t promote friendly behavior, they merely prevent any interaction at all.

The best fences are something we sense intuitively and through learning. Let kids be kids. The paths they make in growing up will serve them better as they navigate their way.

Otherwise, all they experience are borders and boundaries to life.

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Something Right for all the Wrong Reasons

Let me preface this piece with a couple of caveats.

  1. I think Donald Trump will go down in history as the worst President ever
  2. I find Trump to be boorish, a bully, a liar, and an inarticulate, uninformed charlatan
  3. I hope with all that I know is right with America that the voters say to him in 2020, “Mr. Trump, You’re Fired!”
  4. I have not lost my mind.

With that said, let me get to the point.

In threatening to close the southern border, Mr. Trump is correct. A crisis often calls for drastic action. A crisis not of just illegal border crossings, but severe economic and humanitarian issues in Central America.

We face a humanitarian crisis of significant, if not historic, proportions. The crisis is directed and condoned by the corrupt and greedy governments of Central America, i.e., El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. Assisted by the government of Mexico by facilitating the passage of these desperate caravans across their territory.

There is no right answer here. It is not the risk of terrorists we need fear. Not the overblown, exaggerated, culture of fear of crimes perpetrated by immigrants propagated by Trump and his zealot supporters. That is as sinister a false flag as anything coming out of this administration, which is saying much.

But by leaving the borders open, we are luring the desperate with false hopes. This administration has little concern for humanitarian issues. This administration ignored its own citizens in Puerto Rico, what hope do immigrants, illegal or otherwise, have here?

In cutting foreign aid to these countries, Mr. Trump is adding fuel to the very fire he wishes to extinguish. Countries give foreign assistance because it is in their best interest to do so. While some see it as sharing our wealth and spreading goodwill if foreign aid worked against our interests we would not offer it.

Close the border, Mr. Trump. See just what the economic implications to the southern states turn out to be.

Stop foreign aid, Mr. Trump, and see what effect it has on the stability and economies of those countries.

Use your self- aggrandized deal-making skills to convince Mexico and others it is in their best interest to protect our best interest.

The nightmare you have created by focusing on a wall that will take years to build, have a questionable effect, and cost billions of dollars is a sideshow to real statesmanship and your obligation to serve America’s best interest.

Close the border, Mr. Trump. Even you cannot make this worse.

Take the money you save by withholding foreign aid and use it to improve the immigration and border control system. Use it to regain the advantage that has always made America Great, the benefit of immigration and immigrants significant contribution to this nation.

Do that, and you can go back to playing golf while the nation burns.