Monday, December 31, 2018

Literary Corner: Makes Sense to Me!

Photo by Mani Albrecht/DVIDS via Fast Company.

I was enchanted from the start by the lapidary beauty, almost Chinese, of that first sentence in these Trump tweets from almost a year ago, but didn't know what to do with it—with the pedestrian rest of the sequence, which seemed to be about how it wasn't "the Wall" at all, and wouldn't be paid for either, but somehow compensated when he punished Mexico for its offensive habits of manufacturing car parts for American firms, so in this lose-lose arrangement they'd be doing as badly as we were.

But yesterday's story from ex–Chief of Staff Kelly (who is also reported in The New York Times to have "frequently told people that Mr. Trump was not up to the role of president, two former administration officials said") clarified something for me:
"To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it."

Suggesting that it isn't a wall, in addition to not existing, and I suddenly realized that Kelly has been telling us this for a while now, which I don't think the papers are picking up on:

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told a caucus of Hispanic lawmakers on Wednesday [17 January 2018] that he has persuaded President Trump that building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is unnecessary, signaling a possible reversal on the key campaign promise.

Kelly, who was secretary of Homeland Security before taking over as chief of staff in July, said that candidate Trump had not been "fully informed" about the border situation when he pledged repeatedly on the campaign trail to build the 2,200-mile wall and get Mexico to pay for it.

And then finally Senator Lindsey Graham clarified, as referenced in the tweet above:
“It’s just not about physical barriers. It’s about other things,” Graham said. “The wall has become a metaphor for border security, and what we’re talking about is a physical barrier where it makes sense.”
It's about the walls in our minds! It's a kind of spiritual wall, to stop our thoughts from spilling out and puddling on the sidewalk, and to keep those alien, Mexican thoughts from tunneling in through the cracks in the baseboard and setting up camp in the crawlspace! It's about our security! It reassures us that Mom didn't mean to hurt us that time! There's a safe space, behind our metaphorical wall!

Except when it's a physical wall, which will only be where it makes sense, as in not where there are mountains or deserts or flowing water. ("Tough rivers" is a little hard to interpret, if "tough" means, as it generally does in Trumpian, "unpleasant but necessary for other people to endure for my comfort"; there's only the one river, the Rio Grande, and its tough spots are all up around Taos, 400 miles from the border, if I'm not misinformed.) There's almost no place where it makes sense to have a physical wall, by the president's own articulated standards, except in urban areas where there's already plenty of fencing.

And then in this morning's tweet, it all comes clear at last:

It's a concrete wall except where it isn't, which is only where CBP wants it to be, which is everywhere in the physical world, where you want to be able to see what's on the other side, except where you don't want any barrier at all, which is nearly everywhere.

The Dao of Wall
by Donald J. Trump
The Wall is the Wall,
it has never changed
or evolved from the first
day I conceived of it.
Parts will be, of necessity, see-through
and it was never intended to be built in areas
where there is natural protection such as mountains,
wastelands or tough rivers or water.
The Wall is the Wall,
it has never changed
or evolved from the first
day I conceived of it.
The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly,
or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico,
which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus
with the U.S. The $20 billion dollar Wall
is “peanuts” compared to what Mexico makes
from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!
The Wall is the Wall,
it has never changed
or evolved from the first
day I conceived of it.
The Wall is really everywhere, or everywhere there's a border, and nowhere. It already exists, so it's hard to see why it costs $5 billion, or $20 billion, but whatever it is will be peanuts, unless it isn't.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office–a nonpartisan governmental agency that provides auditing services for the United States Congress–neither Donald Trump nor the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has a clue about how much the border wall with Mexico will actually cost....
Acquisitions for the Border Wall System Program—DHS’s program to deploy barriers and other assets along the southwest border—are required to follow the department’s acquisition process. However, GAO found that for one of the two approved segments, DHS has not documented its plans as required. Specifically, GAO found that for the Rio Grande Valley segment, DHS leadership approved and documented plans in December 2017. In contrast, for the San Diego secondary barrier segment, CBP’s plans have not yet been documented, which could hinder DHS’s ability to monitor progress for the segment.
And that’s only one segment of nearly 2,000 miles of wall. Whether you view the wall as simply a feeble-minded, fear-driven fantasy or a scam meant to entice voters, it seems clear that Trump and the CBP’s $18 billion estimate is the stuff of wildly uninformed myth.
Who knows? But that's what makes life exciting, don't you think?

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