Last Nov. 9, Germany celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided the City of Berlin during the Cold War from 1961 to 1989. Elsewhere, however, walls continue to rise. The US-Mexico Border Wall, a series of vertical barriers along the border between Mexico and the United States, is intended to reduce and eventually stop illegal migrant crossings from Mexico to the United States.
History is replete with stories about the rise and fall of walls and barriers. The Walls of Troy served to protect the Trojans from their enemies, the Greeks.
Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia. It was the northernmost limit of the Roman Empire and kept the various tribes of Ancient Britons like the Picts at bay.
The Great Wall of China is the collective name for a series of walls built across the northern borders of China as a defense against the many nomadic and barbaric groups that lived on the steppes of Mongolia.
At the time of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Intramuros (Walled City) was the seat of political power, religion, education and economy. The defensive walls started to be built in the late 16th century to protect the City of Manila from foreign invasions.
The Treaty of Tordesillas divided all newly-discovered lands outside Europe between the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa. All lands to the west would belong to Spain, while all lands to the east would go to Portugal.
The Mason-Dixon Line (1763-1767) was the informal border between the free Northern States (Union) and the slave-owning Southern States (Confederates).
A Demilitarized Zone is an area in which treaties and agreements between nations forbid military installations, activities or personnel. A DMZ lies along an established boundary between two or more military powers and often forms a de facto international border. An example is the 38th parallel between North and South Korea.
The Iron Curtain was a nonspatial boundary dividing Europe from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. On the east side of the Curtain were the allies of the Soviet Union; to the west were countries that were members of Nato.
The Bamboo Curtain was the Cold War political demarcation between the communist states of East Asia like China and Vietnam, and the non-communist countries of East, South and Southeast Asia.
On Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a black woman, rejected a white bus driver’s order to relinquish her seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger after the whites-only section had been filled. Her arrest for civil disobedience inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.The Stonewall riots were a series of violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York City. This event led to the birth of the gay liberation movement in the United States.
Apartheid was a political and social system operating in South Africa during the White minority rule, enforcing racial and ethnic discrimination against nonwhites and mainly based on skin color.
A ghetto is a part of a city in which members of a minority group are forced to live as a result of social, legal or economic pressure. During the Holocaust, more than 1,000 Nazi ghettos were established to isolate Jewish populations, with the intention of exploiting and exterminating them as part of Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
Walls of bias and prejudice, indifference and intolerance, meanness and wickedness, while abstract, nonspatial and intangible, are nevertheless concrete and real. These walls must have been built of the deaf stones so often spoken of in Scripture. The heart is indeed the hardest wall to break, the very last wall to fall.
Walls that wall off just as well wall in. Walls that keep out also wall up, immure and imprison us. Walls are good if they are meant to keep winter, wargs, wildlings and whatnot at bay, but don’t you think it would be better if we built bridges and roads that allow people to pass over instead of walls that obstruct and restrict?
Let me end by citing this haiku by Masahide: Now that my storehouse has burned down, nothing obstructs the view of the brightest moon.
We have to bring down the walls of Jericho in order for us to see the star of Bethlehem.
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Antonio Calipjo Go ([email protected]) is academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City.
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