A friend, David Rintels, is an Emmy-winning writer whose work includes the Broadway play, "Clarence Darrow," and mini-series, "Nuremberg."
He also has a most-timely screenplay, "Freedom," based on the true story of a man's astonishing pursuit of liberty for his family - so utterly heroic it has you beyond awe. But then the man's actions start to spin out of control by going too far in that same effort. Noble virtue, carried to the extreme, becomes a horrifying vice.
This all came to mind the other week when reading the latest scheme by America's poster boys for too much spare time, the speciously-named "Minutemen": to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican borders on private land in Arizona.
No doubt club leaflets explain perverting the Minuteman name, though self-delusion shouldn't count as a reason. The real Minutemen sacrificed their lives as the aspiring nation fought a declared war for independence. Trying to keep out Mexicans just isn't the same thing.
Make no mistake, that's all this wall is about, despite protestations of terrorism and "criminal cartels" to the contrary. On their own website, in their very own press release, their Fearless Leader talks only about building on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The problem is, if this was actually about terrorism and "criminal cartels," then you'd think they might at least mention that other, monumentally-bigger border - you know, the 3,000-mile one by Canada. If you really, truly, honestly, scout's honor want to keep out all "criminal cartels" and terrorists, does it make sense to lock the back door but leave a welcome mat and cheese dip out front?
Now, it's possible the armed wall-builders simply forgot that there's a 3,000-mile border to the north. After all, recent polls show a high percentage of U.S. high school students can't even locate Canada on a map. Maybe the "Minutemen" are recent grads. Or sophomores.
If you were honestly concerned about keeping illegal aliens out of the United States, you'd want to keep them all out. Right? All, not just Mexicans. Oh, sure, some people may say, "There are no 'criminal cartels' of Canadians trying to sneak in illegally." Then how do you explain William Shatner? And Howie Mandel?
Okay, obviously there aren't 11 million Canadians willing to risk their lives to pick vegetables, but make no mistake there are illegal Canadians here. Moreover, Canada has hundreds of thousands of its own illegal immigrants - all with a beautiful, un-walled 3,000-mile border warmly beckoning them to sneak across.
But far more to the point, if you were truly, honestly, swear-to-God concerned about "Protecting The Borders" from terrorists getting in, you'd insist on protecting all the borders. Right? Right???? After all, you don't really think terrorists are too stupid to think the United States bizarrely only has one border? You don't think terrorists would see a big wall looming along the U.S.-Mexican border and not figure out that maybe a wall-less 3,000-miles border with Canada is another way in? Do you?
Assuming the answer is, "no, of course not, do you take me for a total idiot?" - then why focus on only building a wall between the United States and Mexico? It makes zero sense. Unless the only reason behind your playacting "faux-Minuteman" activity was simply to keep Mexicans out - and had nothing to with protecting America from all "illegal aliens," all "criminal cartels" and all "terrorists."
But the reality is, there's something even more insidious going on here. And it goes back to that "Freedom" story, based on actual events - that a virtue carried to extremes is a danger. Remember, we celebrated tearing down the Berlin Wall. And we celebrated it for a reason. Freedom is worth fiercely protecting. But you don't protect something by prohibiting it.
Building walls is not what America is about. It's not why basically all of our own ancestors came to the United States. (And many surely got in illegally.) They came because of the lack of walls. They came because America has a beacon that asks the world to "Give us your tired, your poor."
Illegal immigration is a serious problem. That's why it calls for serious thought, serious discussion and serious solutions. Not fake-patriots playing dress-up Revolutionary War games.
If you want to build a wall, hire Bob Villa. Or get Ty Pennington. He can line up buses to block the view and maybe make Mexicans think there's nothing on the other side.
Building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border not only doesn't solve the illegal immigration problem, it doesn't even address it. Toting rifles and shovels against Mexicans doesn't make you a Minuteman, it makes you a vigilante. In the quest for 15 minutes of fame, their minute is up.