It is one thing when a lightweight dilettante in the matter, like former Mexican weak-man Vicente Fox, pretends that a wall intended to slow the flood of illegal immigrants into a country is similar to a wall intended to prevent exit of legal citizens from a country. It is quite another thing when the man who actually ordered the Berlin wall torn down makes a similar comment: Mikhail Gorbachev compares proposed U.S. border wall to Berlin Wall.
Apparently, Mr. Gorbachev (the last, as in “the end”, head of the Soviet Union), agrees with Mr. Fox (the last, as in presently penultimate, head of Mexico) on this point: Masses of Americans in the Southwest are clamoring to cross into Mexico to relieve the horrible burden of tyranny they face here. Possibly Mexico’s strict immigration laws are the real problem.
But, surprise, they don’t mean that. They are equating a wall that may be built to keep people out with one built to keep people in. Machine gun towers optional, it’s only a matter of which way they face.
For this analogy to recover from being tortured, either the NATO guards on the free side of the Berlin wall were the ones shooting East Germans as they tried to escape from East Germany, or Mexican guards will soon be shooting their own citizens when the latter try to escape from Mexico into the United States.
One suspects Mr. Gorbachev has been waiting since June 12, 1987 to use this line. That’s when Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. The speech deserves repetition, so here’s a noteworthy extract:
In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: ‘We will bury you.’ But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind–too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.
And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
In Mr. Fox’s case, it is barely possible that some deranged naïf (think Cindy Sheehan) might imagine that Mexico could soon find itself in a position to have to shoot Americans illegally migrating into Mexico.
In the instance of Mr. Gorbachev, perhaps the greater language barrier is at fault. Some Soviet translator at some point may have confused the expression “turnabout is fair play” with the spoonerism “180 degrees out of phrase,” or maybe Gorbachev simply figured this was his last, best chance before he dies.
However, The Other Club is nothing if not willing to assist our former communist adversaries along their dvenádtsat-step program to capitalist sobriety. So first, some encouragement; the word “wall” does indeed appear in both Reagan’s speech and Gorbachev’s comment.
Secondly, I suspect the man who presided over the demise of the Soviet Union knows the matter’s heart and has simply left it to the student to discover the one part of the analogy that is both non-trivial and actually analogous. To wit, the communists used the Berlin wall to suppress any uprising of an oppressed people, and Mexico uses the United States as a pressure relief valve to avoid an uprising of oppressed people. In both cases, this benefits the ruling elite. Mr. Gorbachev, meet Mr. Fox.