Saturday, June 9, 2012

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
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.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

25 years ago, on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke to the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall. Due to the amplification system being used, the President's words could also be heard on the Eastern (Communist-controlled) side of the wall. The address that Reagan delivered that day is considered by many to have affirmed the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism.
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall.”

On Nov. 9-11, 1989, the people of a free Berlin tore down that wall.
Of all his speeches, Ronald Reagan's "tear down that wall," address may well become the "Great Communicator's" best remembered.

 On the night of Nov. 9, 1989, an East German official held a press conference to announce new government travel policies but inadvertently announced that crossings to the West would be opened "without delay." Within hours, thousands of East Berliners began lining up at checkpoints near the Wall. At first the border guards tried to check passports, but they quickly realized it was futile. The masses surged through. Many of them ran. Crowds of West Berliners waited on the other side, hugging strangers and popping champagne. The scenes were stunning. By the fall of 1989 cracks in the communist bloc had started to emerge. When the Wall came down, however, Reagan's speech entered American lore. "You look for one line you remember a President by," says Ken Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff who accompanied Reagan on the day of his Berlin speech. "FDR is easy. What is Ronald Reagan going to be remembered by? One line: 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall.'

Reagan loathed the Berlin Wall. "It's a wall that never should have been built," he often said. As early as 1967, while still governor of California, he said the U.S. should have knocked down the barbed wire separating East and West Berlin the moment the communists put it up. On a trip to West Berlin in 1978, he was told the story of Peter Fechter, an East German youth who had been killed trying to crawl over the Wall in 1962. The authorities left Fechter unattended for nearly an hour while he bled to death. "Reagan just gritted his teeth," says Peter Hannaford, a longtime aide who was with him in Berlin. "You could tell from the set of his jaw and his look that ... he was very, very determined that this was something that had to go."

Is the United States going to become a nation that doesn’t necessarily build walls, but barriers?..keeping out the unwanted, and keeping in the unwilling. In his poem, Robert Frost sees the wall as a barrier that keeps neighbors as strangers. Are we,  now, going to live keeping our neighbors at arm’s length, or can we keep the door open for a visit?


  1. ... A woman told U.S. Diplomatic to tell U.S. Clown President Regan to tell Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall"... Rabbi are you aware of this?
    Dear Rabbi Babs... you can ask Crooked/Criminal Bibi to tear down all the walls in Israel and give the land back to the humble Palestinians! or work something for the good and stop the HATE!

  2. No,I was not aware that it was suggested to Regan to tell Gorbachev. Thanks for the info.

    And I do hope that one day the Israelis and Palestinians are able to live side by side in peace. And you're right, the hate has to stop on both sides. But I'm not sure that handing over land is the answer. I think that there's a lot of educating to do.