In 1961, Robert Frost was the first man to pioneer the presidential inauguration poem. Selecting a president is as crucial as the President’s selection of a poet. The poet must represent every American (living and passed on). Now, we cannot fathom a presidential speech without a poet, a symbolic forerunner, speaking of our roots and our country’s destiny. I want to express how a great poet is a reflection of our world. How a great poet delves into the social structure of our society. How a great poet reflects our cultural flaws. A wall is a flaw of our world. It represents our inability to rationally communicate face to face. Walls, of our past, have been created to keep others out, as in the Great Wall of China, and created to keep people in, as in the Berlin Wall. Moreover, walls have been created to segregate people of warring religions and ethnicities as in the spiraling walls of Jerusalem. Present walls, like the Korean Demilitarized Zone guarded by soldiers (the greatest militarized border in the world), and the United States-Mexican Border stretching across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, give us a history on “what [we are] walling in or [what we are] walling out” (Frost line 33).
Frost’s “Mending Wall” is one of the greatest poems on the awareness of cultural segregation and the struggle for security and peace. Though Frost never states a country or city, in his poem, one can visually see two men coming back in the spring to make repair, stone by stone, on a wall they did not create. Basically, these two men are rebuilding a wall they never started. Such is true of abstract walls of racism, classism, and sexism. It is absurd how people never question their prejudice or their hate—they just follow the words of their father’s father (or mother’s mother) without any proof. The rebuilding of this wall is rooted in an old proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors.” True, fences do take the guess work out of who owns what, but, it doesn’t answer the most compelling question of why, “fences make good neighbors”? The poem states that one side, the questioner’s side, is apple orchard, and the other is pine; so, there should be no problem i.e., “My apple trees will never get across/ And eat the cones under his pine” (25-26). This naturalistic separation, one side apple orchard and one side pine, illustrates no need for a wall. Good neighbors can definitely understand boundaries without having to build upon useless structures which initiate fear and lack of trust. It’s ridiculous to think a “fence” can make a good neighbor. Making a good neighbor is done through creating an interpersonal bridge and not a physical wall.
It can be argued that we need walls to protect ourselves and our resources. We need walls to protect our economic and religious existences. But, inevitably, in Frost’s poem, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/ That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it/ And spills the upper boulders in the sun” (1-3). Nature is the strongest force on our planet. Nature does not like a wall. After a while, constant weathering causes decay. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods bring new meaning to our human existence i.e., we are not the boss. Nature has always been viewed, by some, as a great teacher, greater than us. Our looking to nature for the answers is a very natural thing to do since we are part of this world.
Today, I invite you to read Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Walls, rain or shine, close us off from each other. Historically, some walls of our past, like the Great Wall of China have been abandoned, and the Berlin Wall was torn down as quick as it was erected. People need to start questioning their fears and their prejudices. There is a silent language, according to Edward T. Hall, called formal learning. Formal learning consists or deep rooted learning—unconscious learning of right and wrong one never questions (they just follow). But the trick to formal learning, that no one tells you, is formal learning can be unlearned. How much faith do you have in walls? How must faith do you have in your neighbor? Can a wall change what is in a person’s heart? And, how many walls will it take to create peace of mind and world peace? I invite you to read the works of a great poet because questioning, as found in Frost’s poem, is the first step in guiding us to mending our world