Much like how a parent is morally obligated to protect their child, a state is responsible for maintaining the territorial integrity of its borders. Through the child, values, traditions, and languages are transmitted to the next generation. Through the state, a nation’s identity and its culture are preserved. According to Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, barricading and militarizing Hungary’s borders is the most effective way of stemming what he views as a tide of Islamic extremists masked as refugees from flooding into the country, thereby threatening Hungary’s homogenous Christian identity. What is disturbing about the Hungarian case has little to do with the construction of walls and has more to do with the religious intolerance and cultural prejudices underlying and supporting the argument for walls.
The United Nations estimates that over 300,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year alone. Orbán reacted to this mass migration of refugees fleeing persecution, torture, and death at the hands of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime by telling these people to “go [back] home.” Under his leadership, a razor-wire fence stretching along the entirety of Hungary’s 110-mile border with Serbia has been built to keep undesired migrants out.
While many naive, though likely well-intentioned, souls may be swayed by dogmatic leftist ideologues, who rush to condemn Orbán for not acting as a ‘compassionate humanitarian in chief’, his prime duty is first and foremost to protect his people and Hungary’s sovereignty. The critical matter here is not that Orbán places greater value on security than accepting more refugees. Rather, the root of the problem lies in his offensive — dare I say xenophobic — characterization of those refugees.
On Kossuth Rádió, a national radio station in Hungary, Orbán stated that “most of [the migrants] are completely uneducated, and many of them only speak Arabic.” According to him, they “resemble more an army than destitute asylum-seekers.” Several million people are laying siege to Europe, he asserts, and if they are not stopped, Europe will be destroyed.
Orbán also said back in June that he “will do everything” in his “power to spare Hungary from” multiculturalism, which he defines as “the cohabitation of people of various civilizations, the coexistence of Islam, Asian religious and Christianity.”
Close-minded and divisive comments of this sort only add fuel to the fire. They are also indicative of a fear that can be as contagious and corruptive as the threat posed by ISIS. Once the ‘Other’ becomes the source of our frustration and anger, hatred takes form and violence may be employed as an acceptable means of defeating who we perceive to be the enemy.
It is when we are incapable of being in control of our emotions, and when we resort to a regressive and reactionary way of seeing the world that walls get built. The most dangerous walls, though, are those we form in our minds. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, another monument to testify for mankind’s intolerance, German statesman Willy Brandt pointed out that “walls in the mind often stand longer than those built of concrete.”
We are faced with an incontrovertible fact: There will soon be more physical barriers along state borders in Europe than during the Cold War. If we are to believe that our salvation depends on walls, then we are in serious trouble. History is replete of examples of how walls proved to be ineffective safeguards for the protection of a populace and their culture. Even with seemingly impenetrable walls, Odysseus and his soldiers succeeded after a ten-year siege to invade Troy by hiding in a large wooden horse offered to the Trojans as a gift. The Romans were worried about barbarians penetrating their frontiers. Eventually, those barbarians were victorious and the West entered its Dark Ages. When the Ottoman Turks seized Constantinople in 1453, the myth that walls could offer lasting protection, once again, came crashing down.
Walls can only serve a temporary purpose. They are not a permanent solution. The real challenge is ensuring that the better parts of our human nature prevail over the worst parts of ourselves. Doing so requires us to first realize that in international politics, a struggle for power is constantly being waged. A true leader steering a nation forward is not so different from a captain of a ship. What is important is not only the security of the ship, but that the captain behaves in a dignified and respectful manner at sea. The time has come for Orbán to act like a conscientious statesman. For the good of the international community, Orbán ought to leave his rabble-rousing days behind him. Only once the walls of ignorance cease to divide humanity does the prospect for peace and unity become possible.
– Steve Santerre
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