A Wall and All That Matters

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/12/21/a-wall-and-all-that-matters/

It once seemed self-evident that if a thing is valuable, it is worth protecting. Conversely, if a thing is deemed worthless, it’s tossed away with nary a thought.

But now, at this time in American history, as a caravan of apparent asylum-seekers has finished passing through Mexico (not needing or wanting asylum there, I note) to press on the border of the United States, it feels, at least to me, that the self-evident value of American citizenship is about the worth of a mere bauble.

I suggest a metaphorical stroll through Harvard Yard might clarify my point.

The loveliness of Harvard Yard seems the undeniable result of its being protected. Indeed, if there is one thing immediately evident about Harvard Yard, it’s the steel-and-brick fence, complete with 25 gates, that defines its borders; all of which suggests that someone cares for it. No doubt this is not a mere wall of physicality:  there is also a wall one experiences when applying to Harvard itself, namely, one must be able to attain certain and high standards to gain entry.

Moreover, there is an almost a priori knowledge about Harvard that is nearly tautological, for when one thinks of a prestigious school, Harvard quickly comes to mind, and when one thinks of Harvard, the mind readily conjures prestige.

But what makes something prestigious? Surely that which is prestigious is highly valued; esteemed; held in high regard. It would be preposterous to suggest a Harvard education is without value. It is very highly valued, which explains its many walls, real and administrative, and its formidable tuition.

Further, in the scheme of all things, a Harvard education is of value because it is undeniably rare:  only a few people, really, ever get to matriculate there. What is rare is also often highly valued – think of a great gem ­– precisely because it is rare and therefore precious.

This writer visited Harvard’s web site to see what is required merely to enter its world-renowned Widener Library that sits so proudly in the Yard. Not all of Harvard’s collected volumes are held in that grand repository, but many are, including some of the school’s rare works. But entry by non-students into the Harvard library system is not permitted willy-nilly. To enter Widener for even limited access, one must visit the proper office, a sort of legal port of entry, and present a valid government-issued ID, complete with photo, full name, date of birth, and expiration date (of the document). In short, one must enter the library legally, no doubt because the value of what resides therein merits actions respectful of such value. Anything else threatens the library’s status as world-renowned.

To put this all differently, it might be fun for a cheery bounder ­– encouraged by activists from Wellesley ­– to leave Westfield State to take rooms at Harvard’s Wigglesworth Hall, but the university would likely frown upon such a fine activity. I suspect freshmen enjoying dinner in the stunning jewel that is Annenberg Hall might decide to take their meals elsewhere if, in a grandiose mood, President Lawrence Bacow announces that the neo-gothic gem is now open to all diners, for free, as smiling undergraduates from Simmons and Tufts stroll in behind him. And earnest rowers from Brandeis and MIT will likely find the Cambridge police vigorously urging them to return to the banks of the Charles with the Crimson’s eights, even if both crews claim asylum and a right to equal opportunity.

Consider this:  What would happen if Harvard, seeing itself chief among schools, decided to open itself to anyone – for free? And what would happen if the school, impressed by its prestige, or perhaps more aptly, made to feel ashamed of it, suddenly announced that all diplomas acquired at any university, college, or state school could be mailed to Harvard and freely exchanged for Harvard diplomas? And let’s go one step further and posit that Harvard chooses to ensure equal access (not everyone, remember, has access to postal services or holds a diploma to trade up) and decides simply to give a diploma to everyone.

The questions, then, are clear:  What becomes of that which is given away free? Is the free valued? Is the free rare, or is it common? And if Harvard did any of these things, would a Harvard diploma, past, present, or future, be valuable, or would it be worthless? We know the answer. So do many of the school’s medical students:  they know full-well their medical residencies would suffer greatly if anyone could just go about doing rounds with them. (And they know that Doctors Without Borders is not entirely without borders.)

A country, then, that holds its qualities – its heritage (complete with sin), institutions, traditions, laws, colleges, national parks and protected rivers, and its people – with such disrespect that it would hand out passports to anyone, or not even require passports or serious documents at all, is a country that can be described only one way:  It loathes itself, and accepts itself as worthless.

Giving U.S. citizenship or residency, or rights, or benefits, to anyone who demands them, is to cheapen the worth of the things demanded. Find a father who gives his family a home that has no borders, with no expectations for entry; who puts his children in a house with no doors, no windows, because, of course, there must be no walls; who gives away room and board without qualification; and you’ll find not only a sad and unloved man, you’ll find his children cowering in fear atop refuse, ravaged by neglect and abuse, assuming, of course, that you have not found them dead, killed by their father’s lauded lack of prejudice and supposed generosity.

Should you find such a home, dishonored by such a man, you’ll find that no appraiser will ever value it, nor will any broker ever list it. It’s already been given away.

And destroyed. After all, let us not forget the very real truth, given us, no doubt, by doctors of psychology endowed with Harvard credentials, that countless ills of the soul and body are entirely the result of some violation or neglect of boundaries. Children are taught to secure the borders of their minds and bodies, at least that’s what they’re taught by good parents, because it is when such borders are breached that hell often follows.

Put another way, if Harvard were to dispose of its gates and fences and confer diplomas to everyone with nary a thought, no one would want to attend Harvard, nor would anyone care for its fine Yard.

And that would be shameful, to say the least.