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Walls

There’s a long history of us humans building walls. The Chinese made a big one, Hadrian put one up to keep the Scots out, or the Romans in, depending on your point of view, and even here in Donegal we have our own walls like the one up at An Grianán Ailigh. Walls keep us safe, they keep out the bad guys and keep the sheep from wandering off. Along the lanes of Donegal you’ll see big walls, new walls, stone walls. They appear around homes and farms, partly security and partly to make it clear who owns the land thereabouts. I’m sure that walls have been part of our landscape for thousands of years, ever since the time we stopped chasing the wildlife and decided that keeping them in one place was a lot easier.

Of course there are other walls, that are loaded with significance and sadness. The old Peace Walls in Belfast remind us all that getting on with our neighbours isn’t always the easiest thing. They do have an Orwellian Newspeak feel about them and the division of a city down sectarian lines makes me despair for the human race sometimes. It’s not much different in Cyprus or the interface between Israel and Palestine. The Berlin Wall was remarkable one too, marking a divide between political ideologies. For those of us who remember that particular wall, it seemed equally joyless and daft. Sectarian walls, political walls, economic walls, people walls. We humans like walls.

But you know something, it’s the walls that you can’t see which are the biggest, ugliest walls of all. These walls are the ones that are built up in hearts and heads with great big concrete blocks of prejudice and fear. These walls are high, covered with razor wire, with foundations that reach back years or even centuries. They are always there but sometimes they get added to, made stronger and thicker — more razor wire is added and more machine gun nests are built.

You only have to look around the world to see these walls and the special names we have given them — racism, sectarianism, sexism and half a dozen other ism’s besides. Some folk stand on one side and shout ‘This is our land, here, behind this wall’, while others stand on the other side and yell something similar. It happens everywhere and I’m getting heartily sick of the shouting and the yelling.

I think we need some ladders, long ladders at that. We should lean them against as many walls as we can find, here in Donegal and across the world. We should climb those ladders and try looking at the other side for a change, maybe even bring our children with us. If we all did this, we’d find out something remarkable. The people on the other side don’t look too different to us.

Shaking The Walls

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