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Dream Wall

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Today, April 29, 2010, as the state of Arizona enacts a terrible practice into law, I spent time with friends at the original Animation building on the Disney studio lot in Burbank. There's a lot of dreams in those bricks. Here's a dream I had in 2008, when this was first published. I'm pretty sure this is how Walt would've approached the problem.

It is the only thing I can ever remember agreeing with George Bush about. He wanted a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and I agree that we should build it.

I'm not talking about your razor-wired, Brownsville, Green Zone, Gaza Strip style separations, though -- the opaque, fear-cemented designs of division and exclusion. No doubt this is where the 'Bushizona' vision of the wall and mine diverge. (And just for the record, this isn't about Carlos Mencia's Super Fence, either. Different concept.) The Wall I'm dreaming about will be the most awesome and beautiful wall anyone's ever seen. It will encourage traffic between the two countries, not prevent or hinder it.

It will be a magnificent work of art, an architectural and technological marvel, the first Wonder of the Twenty First Century. A wall so awe-inspiring that people from around the world are drawn to experience it. From both sides. It will be an Anti-Berlin Wall Wall. A Greater Wall Than China's. A Wall to End All Walls.

The greatest artists and architects you can think of will be involved in designing it. We need Maya Lin as one of our lead designers, of course -- she did such a great job with the Vietnam Memorial wall. Top American architects like Frank Gehry will earn automatic bids as will great Mexican architects like Enrique Norten and Luis Barragan. We will give them each five miles. Of course we are going to do everything we can to persuade Christo and Banksy to design segments of the wall, because they've shown they know what to do with a large canvas.

Unknowns can win sponsored competitions to design smaller segments. A tenth of a mile is 1/20,000 of the project, but it's still a huge commission for an up-and-comer. Each segment of the Dream Wall must alternate between American and Latino designers, and designs have to flow from one to the next, with approval for your design required from the designer on either side of you. Every Latino designer will need approval from two Americans; every American from two Latinos.

Companies and individuals will be able to sponsor sections of the Wall, but only if all production is 100% original - no advertising or product placement or recycling of old material. It's a Wall, not a Mall.

Theme park designers will finally get to turn the dream of Wally World into a reality.

Every contractor must guarantee that at least 50% of its workforce is Latino. That's how you build a fence. You work on it with your neighbor.

The construction security guards on the Wall and those who maintain the peace afterward will have to use non-lethal weapons like the Pentagon's new Ray Gun, its "Active Denial System" featured on 60 Minutes to do their jobs. Oh, and they have to dress in whatever the designers from Project Runway design for them in a special "Dream Wall" edition of that series. Project Runway will be just one of hundreds of TV specials and series that will originate programming from the Wall.

The design of the Dream Wall will out-wit instead of trying to out-muscle those who would abuse its neighborliness. Drone surveillance planes and helicopters will patrol the wall, and along with satellite technology, keep smugglers, terrorists and other miscreants at bay. Trespassers who are caught and convicted will be sentenced to maintenance and repair detail on the wall. They will wear the latest in high tech necklaces ('techlaces') that will cause the fluid in their eyeballs to heat up by one degree for every ten feet they get outside their assigned work area.

The Wall will naturally be green in its design, and will be made from recycled materials, or will introduce new sustainable materials and building processes. Solar and wind farms up and down the length of the wall will make the land along the wall the San Joaquin Valley of alternative energy. A three-mile zone on either side of the Wall will create tax incentives for sustainable businesses like energy farms and will also be used to review and eliminate abusive labor practices in the existing maquiladora factories.

The Wall will be designed to let people move back and forth between the two countries with unprecedented ease. In fact, the back and forth flow of populations between the two countries will be encouraged by the design of the wall. The same number of people who leave each country are allowed in every day.

The unprecedented traffic will receive unprecedented monitoring thanks to a grid computing system that operates at petaflop (one quadrillion operations per second) speed, and a new system of visas and green cards and permits that will have to be created just because of the Wall. See, like any other player involved in the project, the U. S. nor the Mexican governments will also have to play by new rules. The 'statue of limitations' on the Ellis Island narrative has expired. This Wall begins a new and productive chapter in the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America.

Most people entering the U.S. without documentation are looking for work that will help them feed their families. Because the Wall itself will create work, they will be less inclined to circumvent the system. Workers who come to work on the Wall will stay and raise families and communities will grow around its portals.

New modes of transportation like cargo airships and hydrogen-powered trains will carry tourists and Wallworkers east and west.

A multi-disciplinary, bi-lingual curriculum for grades K-12 will be designed and taught in both countries. Students will study the wall. Medical practices will be installed inside it will feature treatment and rehab on the U.S. side paired with pharmacies on the Mexican side.

Multi-denominational churches will be designed into it, where you can get married with one partner standing in Mexico and one in the U.S., after which the partners will become dual citizens...for a fee.

Robert Frost, in his poem, Mending Wall, wrote the line, "Good fences make good neighbors." What's interesting, and what I had forgotten until I re-read it, is that the first-person narrator the poem doesn't see the point in building the wall. It is the narrator's weathered old neighbor, remembering the words of his own father, who speaks the memorable line. And so the narrator finds himself going along with the work, despite all his the rational arguments why they don't need a wall across a pasture with no cows, where pines grow on one side and apples on the other.

Talk all you want about the reasons why there should not be a wall, says Frost through the old man of Mending Wall, it exists so that we have something to work on together. It is the working on it together that makes us good neighbors.