Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming)
Written in 1919 after World War I the above is one of 100 most anthologized poems in English literature. CAN the Center hold? This is a question that keeps rising within me as we witness violence in our cities and throughout the world. Death, destruction, civil wars, refugees, etc.!
I believe Chancellor of Germany Angel Merkel, in challenging the European Union to accept people fleeing from their home countries today, identifies a significant value of this Center: “If Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed.” Within the next year, Germany plans to welcome 800,000 refugees. Yet, in contrast to this strong proclamation, Hungary’s response is building a wall over 100 miles long to keep refugees out of their country. Both countries’ World War II histories have relevance today.
Without detailing what many of us already know, Nazi Germany committed many crimes in the name of race and ethnicity. Hungary’s 1956 Uprising against the Soviet Union resulted in numerous deaths and over 200,000 refugees. We know, too, other Europeans risked their lives for the safety of refugees from both countries.
Let’s bring this closer home. We in the United States have built a wall on our southern border. Why? What’s the purpose of a militarized 650-mile wall along a border that stretches over 2000 miles? What other options do we, as a nation, have? Does its existence promote U.S. values and a tradition of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free . . .?” In a post 9-11 world security is paramount but at what and whose expense? Are the consequences going to continue to be less freedom? What do I value more – freedom or security? Is it an either/or choice? How can we come to a both/and resolution? Some are speaking about building a wall on our northern border between Canada and the U.S. I often think of the wisdom expressed by Robert Frost:
Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’
(Robert Frost, Mending Wall)