Historical amnesia: “The Militarization of the Southern Border Is a Long-Standing American Tradition.”


There is very little “new” under the sun, but with the advent of the internetz and social media, there are numerous and innovative ways of misunderstanding the “old.”

In short, southern border issues real or imagined are a natural, longstanding consequence of America’s presumed “manifest destiny,” or in other words, our deity-given right to claim western territories from whomever occupied them first — by force, if necessary.

Ever heard of the Mexican-American War?

The Militarization of the Southern Border Is a Long-Standing American Tradition, by Greg Grandin (The Nation)

Trump’s wall is just the latest incarnation of an old fixation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.

The point was less to actually build “the wall” than to constantly announce the building of the wall. “We started building our wall. I’m so proud of it,” Donald Trump tweeted. “What a thing of beauty.”

In fact, no wall, or certainly not the “big, fat, beautiful” one promised by Trump, is being built. True, miles of some kind of barrier—barbed wire, chain-link and steel-slat fencing, corrugated panels, and, yes, even lengths of what can only be described as concrete wall—have gone up along the US-Mexico border, starting at least as far back as the administration of President William Taft, early in the last century. Trump has claimed repairs and expansions of these barriers as proof that he is fulfilling his signature campaign promise. Plaques have already been bolted onto upgrades in existing fencing, crediting him with work started and funded by previous administrations.

And yet Trump’s phantasmagorical wall, whether it ever materializes or not, has become a central artifact in American politics. Think of his promise of a more than 1,000-mile-long, 30-foot-high ribbon of concrete and steel running along the southern border of the United States as America’s new myth. It is a monument to the final closing of the frontier, a symbol of a nation that used to believe it had escaped history, but now finds itself trapped by history, and of a people who used to believe they were captains of the future, but now are prisoners of the past.

Prior to World War I, the border—established in the late 1840s and early 1850s after the US military invaded Mexico and took a significant part of that country’s territory—was relatively unpoliced …