Looks like we’re on the verge of an extraordinary moment: The Republicans control the White House and both branches of government, yet the government might still shut down this weekend.
Why? Because President Trump doesn’t want to sign a spending bill that doesn’t include funding for his “big beautiful wall” on the border with Mexico. And it doesn’t look like such a bill can pass Congress at the moment. Thus: A standoff.
Some folks have pointed out Trump’s request for funding means he’s violating his campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall. (Trump and his allies say those payments will come, eventually, just you wait.) And that’s fine. But nobody seems to have asked a basic question: Why should Mexico pay for Trump’s wall?
This isn’t the same as asking if Mexico will pay for the wall, which is a dubious premise on its own. No, the question is why they should.
Say you and I live next door to each other. I put up a fence to keep our properties separate. Would there be any world we can dream of in which I’d legitimately expect you to pay for my decision to defend my property?
I’ve asked this question a few times and never received a satisfactory answer. Best I can tell, there’s some alpha maleism going on here — a sort of “Why are you hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!” of international relations. There’s no reason for Mexico to pay for the wall … except as a show of submission to the U.S.
And submission is what President Trump seeks, it seems to me.
Makes sense. The building of a wall is an act of fear. A ridiculous one, when you think about it. The same people who want the wall are often the ones who go on and on about the superiority of American culture. Yet this supposedly superior culture is threatened by the presence of people speaking Spanish in public places.
When bullies act out of fear, they often do it by acting extra alpha-maley — in essence, like bigger bullies.
Maybe there’s some other, good explanation. But as it stands, making Mexico pay for a while just a way of making sure that people know that we might be afraid of the outside world, but America still commands hegemonic power.
Yours in tough guyness,