They’ll Never (un)Learn

Terrorist Picture

Twenty years ago, a half dozen men from various nations in the Middle East received the approval and formed a cell affiliated with Islamic extremist terror organization, Al-Qaeda. Their expressed goal was to attack both military and non-military interest of the United States and their allies who they believe are a part of a Christian and Jewish alliance that they have determined to destroy. By late October of 2000, they found their target: United State’s Naval Destroyer, the USS Cole.

On October 12th of that year, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri lead a group including Tawfiq bin Attash, Jamal Ahmad Mohammad Al Badawi, Fahd al-Quso and Abu Ali al-Harethi along with two suicide bombers and took the lives of 17 sailors on board the USS Cole and injured nearly 40 others. My brother, Cherone Gunn, was one of those 17 that lost his life in the attack.

It was a horrific and violent act perpetrated by individuals claiming an allegiance to the Islamic faith, used that faith to justify my brother’s murder.

This week, an Australian extremist, Breton Tarrant, opened fire on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand murdering 49 and injuring 48 others. Tarrant is not alone. In October of last year, Robert Bowers, walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue, murdering 11 and wounding six others. A few days earlier, Gregory Bush attempted to enter a predominantly black church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky before finding a Kroger Supermarket where he shot and killed two, both black and elected to not shoot another because he proclaimed “Whites don’t kill whites. In 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette walked into the Islamic Centre of Quebec City and killed six, wounding another 19. June 17th of 2015, Dylann Roof walked into Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and killed nine during bible study. August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh Temple in Milwaukee to kill six and would three others. In the Summer of 2008, David Adkisson killed two shooting six others in a Unitarian church in Tenessee.

These are some of the most recent mass murders targeted at religious institutions. These massacres did not just take place in these institutions, but they happened because of very specific reasons and by specific persons. These attacks happened because these individuals used hate of race and religion as justification to attack and kill persons who had no quarrel with them at all. Just like the group of individuals who attacked and killed my brother, Cherone.

I can’t help but to think of the stark dichotomy of these circumstances. These individuals that attacked these temples, mosques and churches due to perceived grievances against those of a race and religion, they cultivated hate and courted violence. And just the same, al-Nashiri, Badawi, al-Quso, Attash and al-Harethi, they used their hate to justify the murder of my brother. But not once over the last 20 years have I even thought to use my grievance as reason to hate another. While Tarrant, Bowers, Bush, Roof and Page internalized their hurt and blindly broadcasted it with hateful intent to an entire race and religion. In my case, I can’t even conceive that being possible. Not that I don’t want to think that way. I don’t even know how. Yes those responsible for killing my brother might call themselves Muslim and native of a Arab nation, but I have known, befriended, loved and cared for others that have done nothing but enhance my existence and made me a better person. I cannot associate experiences with one to unfairly judge another. What if you were to think of it another way? I can no more blame any of them as I could blame men in general, since those responsible for my brother’s death were all men. They all also had facial hair. So should I hate everyone with facial hair too? They all have brown eyes, so perhaps I cannot trust those of you who also have brown eyes. Sounds silly? Blaming a race or religion is just as silly.

As a matter of fact, it is the likes of Roof, Bowers, Page and Tarrant that have more in common with al-Nashiri and his cell than any other Muslim I have ever met. They are the ones who hate and use violence and destruction. Not my friends and family.

I cannot ascribe the acts of a few upon the lives and fortunes of millions of others. It’s a matter of an irrelated circumstance. As a matter of fact, I would say it isn’t in our nature to have such a thought from a prompt of hate. To hate an entire race or religion because of the actions of a few individuals never occurred to me. And honestly, I don’t think it simply occurs to anyone. This is something you have to have been taught. Hate is not instinctive. It does not manifest without a precipice. But when it is used to ignore extenuating qualities of singular individuals, that is only something that can be learned.

And if it is being learned, it can also be rejected.


4 to the Power of 20

jay amy berie

20 Days Ago…

I’ve continued the Power Ranking of the 20 Democratic Candidates for the 2020 Democratic Primary to be concluded on it’s 20th iteration the day of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Reminder, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But taking in the news cycle over the last 20 days and other pertinent data, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

So don’t be mad at me. Tell your candidate to get better.

So without further adieu…

20.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 52 (Last 20: #20)

19.  Eric Swalwell – Congressman, California – 38 (Last 20: #19)

18.  John Kerry – Former Secretary of State, Massachusetts – 75 (Last 20: #14)

17.  Eric Holder – Former Attorney General, New York – 68 (Last 20: #13)

16.  Terry McAuliffe – Former Governor, Virginia – 62 (Last 20: #18)

15.  John Hickenlooper – Former Governor, Colorado – 67 (Last 20: #12)

14.  Jay Inslee – Governor, Washington – 68 (Last 20: #17)

13.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 37 (Last 20: #16)

12.  Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York – 77 (Last 20: #11)

11.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 44 (Last 20: #10)

10.  Pete Buttigieg – Mayor, Indiana – 37 (Last 20: #15)

9.   Sherrod Brown – Senator, Ohio – 66 (Last 20: #8)

8.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator Minnesota – 58 (Last 20: #9)

7.   Kirsten Gillibrand – Senator, New York – 52 (Last 20: #6)

6.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 46 (Last 20: #5)

5.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 49 (Last 20: #4)
In-offensive since his launch, Booker has been focused a lot on campaigning since and has also been vocal on policy as well. But where other candidates have done well via fundrasing, endorsements or media, Booker has been rather quiet.

4.   Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware –  76 (Last 20: #2)
A long rumored candidate that has been at or near the top of every ranking for weeks now. Although his family has given him their blessing and he seems to be prepared to announce, he hasn’t yet. Which with several officially announced candidates that have hit the ground rather fast, the former Vice President, at this point, will have some ground to make up.

3.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 69 (Last 20: #3)
What has set her apart and beyond every other candidate is not just popular stance on issues, but discussing actual policy, where others have not. But in regards of those issues, politically she’s popular with the base but does not have the drawbacks other candidates have had.

2.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 77 (Last 20: #7)
Although he’s a older candidate from a past election cycle, his announced candidacy has been augmented by not just a fundraising that has surpassed every other candidate, but a block of supporters that have apparently never left him since his last election.  They’ll be there, but will they be enough?

1.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #1)
Kamala Harris maintains her #1 rank mostly due to some early endorsements and media, which she has maintained or increased since the month she announced. Though some of it has been negative, it might not have hurt her standing much but increased her profile. Though her fundraising numbers have been eclipsed by Bernie Sanders, she’s stayed relevant despite trolling backlash.

3 to the Power of 20

Buttigieg Harris Booker

20 Days Ago…

I’ve continued the Power Ranking of the 20 Democratic* Candidates for the 2020 Democratic Primary to be concluded on it’s 20th iteration the day of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Reminder, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But taking in the news cycle over the last 20 days and other pertinent data, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

So don’t be mad at me. Tell your candidate to get better.

Here’s the last Power of 20

But without further adieu…

20.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 52 (Last 20: #18)

19.  Eric Swalwell – Congressman, California – 38 (Last 20: unranked)

18.  Terry McAuliffe – Former Governor, Virginia – 61 (Last 20: #17)

17.  Jay Inslee – Governor, Washington – 67 (Last 20: #16)

16.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 37(Last 20: #15)

15.  Pete Buttigieg – Mayor, Indiana – 37 (Last 20: Unranked)

14.  John Kerry – Former Secretary of State, Massachusetts – 75 (Last 20: #12)

13.  Eric Holder – Former Attorney General, New York – 67 (Last 20: #14)

12.  John Hickenlooper – Governor, Colorado – 66 (Last 20: #13)

11.  Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York – 76 (Last 20: #9)

10.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 44 (Last 20: #10)

9.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator Minnesota – 58 (Last 20: #8)

8.   Sherrod Brown – Senator, Ohio – 66 (Last 20: #11)

7.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 77 (Last 20: #5)

6.   Kirsten Gillibrand – Senator, New York – 52 (Last 20: #6)

5.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 46 (Last 20: #4)

4.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 49 (Last 20: #7)

3.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 69 (Last 20: #2)

2.   Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware –  76 (Last 20: #1)

1.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #3)

Who’s More Foolish, the Fool or the Fool Who Follows Him?


Virginia. 2019.

In a few months we’ll be coming upon the 400 year anniversary of two separate events in Virginian and American history. We’ll be celebrating the 400th anniversary of our General Assembly, the oldest continuous legislative body established in the New World. A month later, Virginia will be remembering the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of first Africans to the New World, which of course lead to second class treatment and enslavement of an entire race for last the four centuries.

That’s our history. And now, our present has seen quite the controversy with race and now our executive body. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last several days, you know that Governor Ralph Northam was said to be in his 1984 yearbook in a picture of a person in blackface next to another in a Klu Klux Klan costume. The Governor would go on to apologize for being in the photo(never confirming who he is), only to call backsies the following day as most prominent Democrats in the nation asking him to resign, which he adamantly defied. To make matters worse, during the press conference where he made his declarative mind-change, he emphasized that, after asking other classmates about whether it was him, he emphatically remembered that it wasn’t him and he would have remembered if it was him and that he knew it wasn’t him because he actually remembered the last time he was in blackface and that wasn’t that time. And, after this press conference, which also included a near attempt at moonwalking, any Democrat left that further mulled on his resignation were given no more doubt.

And again, despite calls for his resignation, for several days now, the Governor has refused. In the meantime, even if he resigns, his replacement, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, has found himself in the mist of a sexual assault allegation that is causing some to question him and his integrity. He, of course, denies it, claiming it was consensual. His claim is augmented by the Washington Post’s refusal to run with the claim when it was brought to them over a year ago. However, very much unlike Northam, Justin Fairfax is far ahead of what has befell him.

That said, I’m not writing this to rehash and re-litigate what Ralph Northam has done(or not done according to him). However, there are some things that have to be said that are being forgotten.

We need to be clear about some things.  First and foremost, Ralph Northam needs to resign. If he was wearing blackface the same year a black man was making a viable shot at a major party nomination, his ignorance cannot be over looked. If he was dressed as a klansman the first year Martin Luther King Jr. Day was an actual thing, we can’t just accept that. Perhaps he is telling the truth and he is not in the picture and it was placed under his name by accident. That does nothing to clean up his apology and admission, then his retraction, then his defense of his retraction with another admission to using blackface, which was baffingly given with a lot more information about blackface application that anyone should have, which was followed up by his desire to dance during the worst moment of his political life.

Ralph Northam has put Virginia in a very bad light and he has lost the confidence of all elected officials in his leadership being any further effective. He has sparked an outrage in this state and in this nation and dug a hole that he is ill-equipped to dig himself out of. He can no longer faithfully govern and has lost the trust of those who elected him. That much is clear. Unfortunately what is not clear to virtually the entire nation is who Ralph Northam is. Many of those who have worked in Virginia politics for the last decade have worked with and/or along side of Ralph Northam. I am one of those persons. I’ve known him since 2007 when I was hired, in part, to help get him elected to the State Senate. And for as long as I’ve known him, Ralph is probably one of the more ingenuous and honest persons I’ve met. Fairly unassuming and the opposite of what you typically expect from most politicians, this is what most people know of Ralph Northam. Where many Virginians, and Americans have assumed rather a racist past or present inclinations, I cannot assign such a disposition to the man I know. As someone that has known him enough to know the kind of person he is, I’ve given him the benefit of doubt of who he’s thought to be. But that does not mean he should continue to be Governor of Virginia. He can be forgiven. Trust me, as weird and racist as it may sound, I can completely believe that the Ralph Northam I knew could be as much of a country bumpkin to not know any better and think dressing in blackface is humorous and did not mean to offend. But regardless of what he knew then, his behavior now has eviscerated any hope for redemption as governor. He can move pass this and resuscitate his reputation. But that has nothing to do with him being in office to do that.

And it’s this conflict of who Ralph Northam has been for the last 12 years is the true problem that is being ignored. First, working in politics, everyone knows coming into any election, every candidate has to know everything that can be said or claimed about them, good or bad. Any responsible and able campaigner will want to have this information to be able to control any damage done to their candidate and their campaign. This clearly had not been adequately done in the 12 years of Ralph Northam’s public life. But the more egregious errors of this case are not the ones 12 years ago or even 35 years ago. It is the ones that have been made since these pictures were made public. Could Ralph Northam have survived the outing of his personal history? Possibly, if it indeed was not him and if there was no corroboration.  But this was the most literal interpretation of Murphy’s Law I’ve ever seen in politics. It makes Mark Sanford’s Appalachian Trail fiasco look like the Gettysburg Address. Everything about it went wrong. Even the wrongs that went wrong, they went wrong too.

Ralph Northam should have known that this picture existed. He didn’t. Ralph Northam should have told the whole truth about this picture when it was uncovered. He didn’t. Ralph Northam should have given a simple denial if it’s his assertion that it wasn’t him. He didn’t. Ralph Northam should have resigned once the fallout from this picture was made clear. He did not. More than this, those around him should have known about this picture. They should have made sure he told the whole truth about the picture. They should have given him a simple denial.  And most importantly, they should have convinced him to resign. But the only reason he has given for his refuse to resign is that doing so would be admission that he is indeed a racist. As if one has something to do with the other.

Sadly, in this, as with his press conference and his earlier admission to his actions 35 years ago, he is completely wrong about this. The problem is 35 years ago, his judgement was his alone. However, as an elected official, you are hardly making decisions on your own. Because in politics, it’s much like standing trial, where “only a fool would have himself as a client.” It is rather basic knowledge that it’s best to have an outside perspective to assist in seeing blindspots and weaknesses that you may not see or don’t think to see. And if Ralph Northam is advising himself to not resign so  he not be labeled a racist for the rest of his life, he is being advised badly by himself and by those around him who should be telling him that his not being a racist is not contingent on his being in office. And if he is being advised that his resignation will be a admission of racism, then he is being advised badly by those around him who have convinced him to resist what he has to know. Either way, this has been handled in the worse possible way. Someone is rather not doing their job or doing a really bad job.

Whether Ralph Northam is a racist is rather moot at this moment. But his continued linkage to his office with what’s in his heart has damaged him, just as it’s damaged many elected officials before him, far more than he’s prepared to accept. Ralph Northam has lost the confidence in his ability to continue in office. That is not due to him being a racist. It’s due to his inability to control his own political misfortunes. He is conflating “not being governor” with “being racist” and by virtue “being governor” with “not being racist” and his perception of this status is just flat wrong. And the Ralph Northam I know, the Ralph Northam we all saw and lampooned at his rather bizarre press conference, it’s actually possible that he does not know how wrong it is. But those around him, those advising him, they don’t get the benefit of doubt he has. They have to know he BOTH can’t be in office and can prove to not be a racist. If they’re not telling him that they’re not doing their job. If he’s not listening, then they need to be removed for someone who can make him listen.

Ralph Northam needs to resign immediately. But not before those who have advised him to this point. They should have been gone days ago.

By Summer, where this nation will highlight some extremely significant history, rather Ralph Northam or Justin Fairfax will be Governor of this Commonwealth. However only one has demonstrated the kind of mandate that is deserving to lead. Tragically, the other seems like the fool who follows.

Bill Maher STILL Doesn’t Get it. And Neither Do You…

maher stan

So, I should know better by now, but I foolishly keep banging my head against the wall. Over and over again. And I’m tired of it. Been fighting this same fight for practically my entire life and apparently 2019 still won’t be any different.

That that battle is ignorance. The latest opponent: Bill Maher.

For a quick recap, Stan Lee, comic book creator and writer, passed away in November. And in light of the impact that his chosen art and craft has had on American society, it apparently bothered Maher to the extent that wrote a blog post about it deriding those who have an interest in the genre.  The backlash to his ignorance was rather immediate with several fans, artist, writers and industry figures attempting to inform the comedian on things he either does not know or can’t possibly grasp.

Well, to his dismay, his show took a break, only to come back this month with him readying a response in his final editorial segment. I won’t go in the his commentary fully, but he began by wanting to point out that he wasn’t attacking Stan Lee, but attacking fans who read comics or indulge in comic book culture. The problem is, we fully understand that. It’s his ignorance that’s fully problematic. It’s predicated on the fact that he’s never read a comic or thinks they’re written at a 1st grade level.

His commentary was centered on his thoughts that comic books aren’t literature and superhero movies are not great cinema. That fans who liked things they did when they were children need to grow up and stop pretending the writing in comics are good because in his worldview they’re made for kids. Saying adults need to let go of childish toys and games they’ve held since childhood.

This is pretty rich though. A lifelong pot smoker that makes his living telling jokes is telling other people that they need to grow up and stop acting like children. If it weren’t as hypocritically sophomoric it’d be insulting.

For someone who proudly professes his aversion to comic books, I would be curious as to how he could possibly be sure that they are indeed written for children, but simplistic ignorance is never far from the mind in such instances. I did intend for this to describe in each case where his ignorance fails him.  If he really wants adults to let go of toys and games they played as children, I’m a little curious why he couldn’t tell his guest last week, Marshawn Lynch, to do the same.  I mean, football is a kids game. Marshawn’s been playing it since he was a kid.  Fact of the matter is comics stop being written exclusively for children roughly 70 years ago. But what would he care? Maybe it would also escape his notice that the comic book movies he slams for being all the same about “glowy things”, one such movie just received six Academy Award nominations, one of which being for Best Picture. But we’re supposed to be the less mature one because Black Panther was one of the best received films in generations.  And then his invite to ignore social parables in comics in lieu of the likes of a James Michael Eric Dyson, Toni Morrison or James Baldwin is kind of funny considering James Baldwin actually wrote a children’s book himself, which if you want to be critical of the sophistication of literature, you better continue such consistency there if you want not to be judged a hypocrite. Or what of another such writer who, given the propensity that he frequents the show, I’m certain he’d laud, Ta-nehisi Coates, that actually IS a comic book writer! Other writers like Mark Millar has been Knighted for his contributions to film and literature. Literature, Bill.

So I don’t know. Maybe James Baldwin, The Queen of England, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and multiple guest of his show show such as Coates or Aaron Magruder, Ben Affleck, Jon Favreau, Larry Wilmore, John Ridley, and Chris Hardwick that are all fully involved in the culture, maybe they all know something he don’t. I suppose it wouldn’t be so hard because it’d just require doing basic things like reading, things we learned when we were littler.

And this is the overall problem with many of you. You share his same ignorance. You judge me, you judge us for something we know you know little next to nothing about. You don’t know the stories we’ve read, the commentary we’ve seen, the magnitude of industries and wealth that has been generated. Who are you to judge us for what I find entertaining and how I receive information?  This association that because something was made for or via a medium only thought to be exclusively for children, that I am somehow LESS mature than you is the kind of lame-brained idiocy I’ve heard my entire life. And virtually every other fan has heard their entire lives. And frankly, to judge someone as immature based on your own ignorance is the height of immaturity in of itself. You just see pictures in panels and limit your own cognitive function to simplistically believe that “Oh, it must be made for kids because my extent of comic books only extends what I learned years ago.” I really shouldn’t feel as if this needs explanation. But the themes and motifs that are found in comic books and have been increasingly done by designed for at least the last 50 years, are exactly what is found in virtually EVERY. OTHER. GENRE. OF. ART. AND. LITERATURE. This is just another medium or a way to convey a message or story. And to be fully honest, it shouldn’t matter how as long as it is eliciting thought and emotional response.  But hey, he’s the comedian, so perhaps he knows better about being the arbiter of being taken seriously. As if a comedian telling jokes any more artful or educational?

Seriously, a COMIC passing judgement on COMIC BOOKS?

2 to the Power of 20

gillibrand warren gabbard

20 days ago…

I began a project to rank the top 20 Presidential Candidates for the 2020 Presidential Election, which will be released 20 times, every 20 days until the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Again, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But looking at polling data, expert opinions, and also the current news cycle, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

If you would like to view the last 20 from 20, take a look here at the first Power of 20 ranking…

But without further adieu…

20.  Eric Garcetti – Mayor, California – 47 (Last 20: #19)

19.  John Delaney – Congressman, Maryland – 55 (Last 20: #20)

18.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 52 (Last 20: #15)

17.  Terry McAuliffe – Former Governor, Virginia – 61 (Last 20: #16)

16.  Jay Inslee – Governor, Washington – 67 (Last 20: #17)

15.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 37(Last 20: Unranked)

14.  Eric Holder – Former Attorney General, New York – 67 (Last 20: #13)

13.  John Hickenlooper – Governor, Colorado – 66 (Last 20: #12)

12.  John Kerry – Former Secretary of State, Massachusetts – 75 (Last 20: #9)

11.  Sherrod Brown – Senator, Ohio – 66 (Last 20: #10)

10.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 44 (Last 20: #14)

9.   Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York – 76 (Last 20: #7)

8.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator Minnesota – 58 (Last 20: #8)

7.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 49 (Last 20: #6)

6.   Kirsten Gillibrand – Senator, New York – 52 (Last 20: #11)

5.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 77 (Last 20: #2)
Bernie Sanders has hit a bump in the road with the latest news of sexual misconduct claims in his campaign, which he effectively plead ignorance on. What’s worse, as a high profile 2016 candidate, 2020 looks to be a year with other candidates with a similar platform without his baggage.

4.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 46 (Last 20: #3)
Still fairly popular, but yet noncommittal about announcing a run. He has filled his days since the election with random(and frankly weird) social media videos of a “road trip” across America that’s keeping him in the public eye, for better or worse.

3.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #5)
Making daytime and late night talk show visits to publicize her new book, “The Truths We Hold” is a telltale sign of a potential candidate’s intentions to run for President. Which was proceeded with the news that an announcement of her intentions is imminent, likely within the next few days…

2.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 69 (Last 20: #4)
Although many have questioned the news surrounding her video regarding her Native American ancestry, she is still a very popular senator, with a populist message and the national media has given her the privilege of being the “first household name” to officially announce her candidacy.

1.    Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware –  76 (Last 20: #1)
With each passing day, there are more stories of those close to him that are certain that not only his he moving to announce a decision, but that decision will indeed be a confirmation that he will be a candidate in 2020. And as was the case 20 days ago, his universe name identification and the most popular president of the last few generations still will make him extremely hard to beat… right now.

How Did We Go From “Tear Down This Wall” to “Build That Wall”?

trump reagan pic

In the closing weeks of World War II, on Friday, April 20th, 1945, Adolf Hitler celebrated his 56th and last birthday. The only known gift he received that day was from the Soviet Union’s Red Army, who began an intense and sustained bombing of Berlin which would last that entire weekend. By the following Monday, the Red Army had successfully surrounded the city and sealed the fate of Hitler’s Third Reich. Two weeks later, the war would be ended and the Soviet Union would control the city while the other Allied nations, the United States, Great Britain and France controlled most of the country. Initially, Soviet leader, Josef Stalin wanted to keep Berlin as Russian territory gained through conquest. However, it was soon negotiated that Berlin, as well as the entire country of Germany separately, would be equally divided into four sectors, administered by the four Allies. Of course by 1949, the western sectors would stay intact and eventually be known as West Germany by the world at large and in the east, East Germany. However, Stalin and the subsequent Soviet leadership,  who were never really pleased with the arrangement, sought ways to change this dynamic. And the one thing that intensified this desire was the quality of life between the East and the West, and specifically the split of East and West Berlin.

But it was that very sort of quality of life dilemma that forced the issue between the two German states. As Communist Russia slowly begin to influence East Berlin and East Germany, economic opportunity for thousands of East Germans became restricted. They had no choice but to leave. And they did. Fast. Over the next 12 years, hundreds of thousands of East Germans immigrated to West Berlin for permanent relocation, but over that time, Berlin was effectively still one city. That changed practically overnight in the Summer of 1961. At the insistence of Communist Party leader Walter Ulbricht, East Germany quickly put together a barrier of cinder blocks and barbed wire around West Berlin, which Ulbricht insisted would be paid for by West Germany(I’m kidding… sorta). And day by day, month by month and year by year, the four foot cinder block barrier would morph into a 12 foot reinforced concrete wall with accompany guard towers, electric fencing, a bed of nails, trenches, automatic machine guns, mine fields and patrol dogs all with the purpose of keeping East Germans from immigrating to the economically prosperous West. Most modern prisons do have as much fortification.

This is the story of the Berlin Wall. And in case you can’t see the parallels of the border crisis between East and West German with the border crisis of the United States and Mexico, then it’s probably because there’s one significant difference: the situation between the German states could have lead to a third World War while the United States and Mexico are allies… or supposed to be.

But now, of course, the President of the United States, for the last three years has insisted on furthering the parallels in history and constructing a border wall, not unlike what was constructed in Berlin and ostensibly for very similar reasons. The President believes that constructing such a wall isn’t just the best way to stem the tide of illegal immigration to the United States, but he obviously believes it’s the only way. Mexico, along with other Latin American nations, which like East Germany, has faced economic hardship and decline is filled with citizens that are attempting to flee a desperate economic situation to a place with more economic opportunity and to improve the outlook of life for themselves and their families. But the President, like the Soviet Premier at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, has decided a wall is the best way to protect his nation and to stop border crossings.

Unfortunately, there’s just one small problem: It didn’t really work.

Within days of construction of the Berlin Wall, citizens were escaping. While the fortifications of the wall grew, so did the resolve of thousands of Germans who were willing to leave their families and all that they knew behind just to risk their lives to live a better life in the West. And the means of escape weren’t simply legal or overt. Over the 30 years that the Berlin Wall existed, hundreds of tunnels were built allowing for the immigration of hundreds of families. Some Germans were smuggled out by car or made mad dashes across a particular barrier. There are even stories of Germans using hot-air balloons, gliders, flagging down subway trains, tight-rope walking and ziplining via bow and arrow(not even kidding a little bit on this one) to get across the border. The results were not universal however. For every three that attempted escape, two would not make it and face arrest. But some preferred jail over the living conditions in East Germany.

This all ended 30 years ago this November. In 1989, after intense political pressure from within and outside of Germany, the East German government announced that they would implement a new regulation that would allow any East German citizen to travel through any of the border crossings immediately. This rather impromptu breaking news alert was reason enough for a flood of East Germans to join West Germans at the Berlin Wall and for the first time in decades cross without a guard or landmine, barbed wire, concrete barrier or attack dog in sight to stop them. And literally over night, just as it was initially constructed, the Berlin Wall would come down.

And that political pressure, which lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, while it had been cooking for a while from within East Germany, outside the nation, it was a different story. The earliest perceptions of the Berlin Wall from U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, they were anywhere from okay with the barrier to thankful that it was there. It was better a wall than a war, they thought.  Successive presidents did not think to challenge this dynamic mostly believing in the strength of the Soviet Union and the cloud of the Cold War. But by 1987, President reagan encouraged by reform-minded Soviet Union Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, didn’t think the Cold War would last forever. And because ronald reagan was a Republican, he believed, like many in his party still believe, in the promotion of free enterprise and economic liberty. So in June of 1987, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, he decided to extend that same promotion and famously demanded to Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall”, which is probably one of the more famous declarations in World History.

And 30 years later, our current Republican president announces to a chanting crowd of supporters to “Build that wall” that has now lead to the shut down of our government, which he insist could last months, if not years. I, for one, can’t help but to wonder how the Republican Party can have such a swift shift in tone, policy and principle to believe a physical barrier can and should prevent someone from living their best economic life.

It’s slightly amazing when you stop and think about it. We are now living in a time where the Berlin Wall has been gone longer than the length of time it ever existed. The overall cost of construction and maintenance landed north of half a billion dollars a year. In today’s dollars such a construction would be astronomically expensive to undertake and maintain. And that was actually slightly less than 100 miles. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. border with Mexico stretches for nearly 2,000 miles. And while the Berlin Wall was constructed to prevent the flow of illegal immigration(emigration I guess to be technical), those who were determined to leave a desperate situation would not be denied. While Nikita Khrushchev and Walter Ulbricht desired a wall to end a brain drain of talent and skill from East Germany, it was their very own social shortcomings that caused such a situation to begin with. Likewise, today, the President doesn’t recognize the true root causes of immigration. He doesn’t realize the flow of migrants are to escape economic and social situations that we’ve done a lot to inspire with our own policies and shortcomings. We sign agreements to bypass economic hubs that wrecks small town job markets. We refuse to address and quite frankly allow for the demand of illicit drugs in our cities, which only intensifies Mexican and South American elements desire to supply our demand.  These are the type of root problems we hardly recognize on a policy level. If he thinks a wall will stop any of it, then he probably should look at where his predecessor was 30 years prior facing a similar circumstance. And if tens of thousands of East Germans decades ago could find their way across a far more guarded and fortified Berlin Wall to freedom, how could anyone seriously believe that his impossibly less fortified wall is in the position to stop anyone just as willing to live their best life today?