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Walls of Futility

Walls, fences, and steel barriers cannot stop people fighting for survival, but they can turn a once-open country into a land where everything is poisoned and slowly collapses on itself. US President Donald Trump, the fence builder of the West, would be wise to remember the fate of the Soviet Union.

MOSCOW – My Soviet school built a mesh fence around its yard. Every week, tardy kids who wanted to cut through the yard tore a hole in the fence. Every weekend, the administration fixed it. But the hole would reappear the morning after. This went on forever. I wish US President Donald Trump, the fence builder of the West, had gone to my school.

The Soviet Union was a country of fences, barriers, and walls. Everything was prohibited, locked, and guarded. Warning signs were phrased in no uncertain terms: “Do Not Enter: Death!” “Strangers Are Forbidden.” “The Border Is Closed.”

Barriers didn’t stop people from ignoring the warnings. But they complicated things. To steal bricks and cable from construction sites, citizens removed planks from wooden fences, or climbed over concrete ones, at the risk of being scratched by rusty nails or barbed wire, bitten by guard dogs, or even shot at with rock salt. Construction materials were in short supply, but people needed them, and not everyone could pay black-market prices. For intruders, fences were not such a big deal.

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