Love Your Neighbor, but….
The only man-made structure on earth observable from space is the Great Wall of China which is symbolic of earth’s 12,500 miles of border walls or fences. Borders have always been necessary, and today because of the fretful anxiety of some Americans we will spend $30 billion reinforcing our border with Mexico, on top of the staggering $90 billion spent on border enforcement since 9/11!
The world’s 12,500 miles of border walls, if laid end-to-end, would reach approximately halfway around the earth! Yet those thousands of miles of barriers are but a minority of the boundaries on earth when you include those we have built around ourselves.
Without any instruction, as infants we began putting privacy boundaries around ourselves. Instinct, more than fear, explains the existence of these personal invisible walls that we signaled to others by coded subtle facial and bodily signs. Infants feeling their boundaries being violated give the coded sign of crying. Adults signal a possible threat by a rigidity of body or by physically drawing back from a possible trespasser.
Whenever as children and adolescents we experienced hostility from classmates or neighbors we instinctively reinforced and raised higher our fences. Upon becoming adults we knew by instinct the unspoken rule of bounty crossings: The greater can touch the inferior, but not the reverse. Bosses can pat employees on the back but workers shouldn’t do the same to the boss.
Earth’s seemingly endless miles of boundary walls testify to their necessity even if we may wishfully dream of a fenceless world of loving unity and open association. Equally true is the need for personal borders that defend our privacy, body and sexuality. They are not only essential but also sacred boundaries of our personhood.
Anyone uninvited who crosses a boundary is a trespasser! Adults as well as children should repel trespassers who attempt to encroach by asking inappropriate personal questions or unacceptable behavior.
Let the next fence you see loudly shout out to you how important are boundaries. Also let any fence remind you of the wisdom of the poet Carl Sandburg, “Love your neighbor as yourself, but don’t take down the fence.”