2018-01-11 / Voices

A Border Wall For America’s Emperor


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that natural disasters caused $306 billion in damages across the country last year.

We’re about to add $18 billion to that total as a down payment for our own manmade natural disaster: The Trump Wall.

The most ridiculous public relations blunder in the history of “the land of the free” is next up on Donnie T’s “Make American Great Again” 4-year plan (we can only pray it’s not 8), even though it will take …well, actually, no one knows how long it’s going to take to build the 864 miles of new wall and 1,100 or so miles of replacement / secondary wall.

Initial estimates were 3 years, then 15, but now the end date is somewhere in “the cloud” - along with 45’s tax returns and Ivanka’s understanding of her father’s true character (see Oprah’s Golden Globe comments).

But as long as it takes less time than the Great Wall of China – 2000 years, the realty show maven turned presidential imitator will consider it another accomplishment to point his tiny fingers at.

Of course, building massive walls at your border is nothing new. In fact, it’s a very antiquated mindset (no…too easy) that dates back to at least the 21st century B.C. when ancient Sumerian rulers constructed a massive fortified barrier to keep out the Amorites, a group of nomadic tribesmen who’d been making incursions into Mesopotamia.

Right… Mesopotamia. We’re talking Bible times here.

The “Amorite Wall” didn’t work. Hostile invaders either penetrated the wall or simply walked around it, and the Sumerian culture eventually vanished from history.

Then there’s “Hadrian’s Wall”, built by the Roman emperor of the same name in 122 A.D. to protect Roman Britain from the “barbarian” Scots. Rome is gone. Hadrian’s gone. The Scots are still there. So is the wall.

Granddaddy of them all is China’s Great Wall. It runs about 5500 miles from the Gobi Desert to North Korea. And though it did the job for centuries, when the rest of the world – America and Western Europe, in particular – wanted to get in, nothing could stop them. Hence, those “Made in China” labels everywhere.

Even the Russian-backed and heavily militarized Berlin Wall didn’t really last too long or work as planned.

All this said, it’s no surprise that a man who knows so little about history would suggest building a wall as a solution to people entering this country illegally. Nor is it unexpected that the same man who bent over backwards to avoid military service would discount the opinion of a former Marine general, in this case John Kelly, who advised that “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.”

Beyond the fact that Mr. 45 only understands “physical” (see Trump’s Access Hollywood tape), with conceptual hovering well above his intellectual capacities, there’s the base issue of expenditure. How do you qualify a down payment of $18 billion - with another $15 billion for technology, personnel and readiness, on a project whose end could date farther afield than the completion of Crazy Horse Mountain?

After all, the Indian Health Services budget – a mere $6.1 billion, has been cut by $56 million in the new federal budget. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities there are also $400 billion in cuts to discretionary programs for low and moderate-income people including Medicaid, the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Cuts that will impact many Native American families.

While anyone receiving a Social Security or Disability check will find that their monthly Medicare costs rose by about $25 while their benefit amount puttered along at about…$3. Maybe.

Trump also tried to eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but saner heads prevailed…for now.

Hey! It takes a lot of money for all those bricks and mortar.

Through it all residents of South Dakota, living on or off the reservation, have John Thune, Mike Rounds and Kristi Noem to thank for these cuts in funding while touting the benefits of the Republicans’ wealthy-heavy tax plan. This is what happens when politicians are elected who are more concerned about kissing up to their party leaders than taking care of “all” their constituents.

Noem may reference her own mother when the topic of seniors comes up, but most elders don’t have daughters making $174,000 per to bail them out in times of need.

Build a wall? That’s what emperors (or dictators) do.

And didn’t we fight a revolution against monarchy?

Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. He can be heard on National Public Radio and National Native News Radio. Jim can be reached at

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