February 16, 2019

Throughout American history, walls as symbols of division have played an important part in our political conversations.

 

The word “wall” first made an impact on U.S. political discourse in 1802, when Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, spoke of a “wall of separation” between the Church and the state. The metaphor helped to paint a picture of what he believed was a necessary divide between religion and the government in order to build a fully democratic nation.

 

Since then, walls have been built (e.g., India-Pakistani border), they have been torn down (e.g., Berlin), and they have been contested (e.g., West Bank). But not since Jefferson’s “high and impregnable wall” (as the Supreme Court called it in 1947) has the word played such a direct, divisive role inside our own borders.

 

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