Responsively Yours: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall"
For me, these words of Robert Frost call to mind the cold stone walls separating fields and properties through the forests and hills of New England. While they serve their dual purpose of providing a place to put stones removed while clearing the fields and of demarcating boundaries, over time these walls break down, spreading out in the bracken so that they seem to disappear. In some places the stones are collected and reused, and in others, they remain a silent testimony to the lines that seemed important enough to merit the labor it took to build them.
This process of building walls and demarcating boundaries also reminds me of walls that have fallen in places around the world where the work of reform and reconciliation has taken place. I have a little piece of the Berlin Wall in my kitchen — a souvenir from a trip that my dad and my brother took. Imagine! A fearsome, military installation deemed important to world order and national security removed in tiny pieces that could be glued to plastic forms by enterprising vendors.
At the same time, we are continuing to defend other walls and fences. The “peace walls” in Belfast remain in place with Protestant and Catholic communities divided on either side, only coming into contact at the “interfaces” or through intentionally planned activities. The walls have allowed generations of children to grow up not knowing one another, separated by school uniform, calendar, tradition and fear.
In communities along the southern border of the United States, families with members on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are funneled through checkpoints replacing the previously free interchange. Fear and law and violence make these walls and fences even more restrictive.
A similar pattern is at play in Israel and in Korea where people are separated from one another in the name of security. Governments and those with a financial stake in maintaining division use all the usual weapons — fear, policy, intimidation and financial incentives — to build physical boundaries and to reward and coerce separation and suspicion. All this takes place despite the fact that the people affected often have more common interests with one another than they do with those in positions of power and would be better served by working on their common interests than by focusing on what divides them.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. Parties may need time apart for reflection, to regroup, or to allow the heat of passion to cool, but separation is not a long-term solution. Separation does not make peace. United Methodist Women members know we must work together for the good of all.
Let us not give walls undue power. Borders change. Alliances change. Only God’s love remains steadfast. In this new year, let us dream of peace but let us also commit ourselves anew to work for peace, and declare God’s love for all peoples on earth.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary