In this lyrical piece, initially released in Matters, writer Lola reflects on the different forms of barriers that limit our ability to express ourselves, think freely, move, and connect with others.
I am unable to confront the barrier.
I wish I could only dream.
“The Wall” was written by Shu Ting.
Without even reading the alarming news, it’s easy to sense the growing height of the wall. I often find myself frantically hopping from node to node, link to link, in an attempt to stay ahead of being eliminated. The internet has once again become entwined with real life, and we calculate our wasted time in mere seconds and heartbeats.
There is always a physical barrier, extending from the Great Wall of China to the “Great Firewall” of China. If you casually search for pictures of the Berlin Wall, you will come across a collection of photos depicting its construction and eventual destruction, which can evoke feelings of horror and sadness. It seems as though there is a hidden collective desire for us to follow a similar path with our own wall, one that is both physically present and abstract, before we can truly and openly explore the world.
We are currently experiencing a scenario similar to those depicted in the animated movie “Attack on Titan” from a decade ago or the current COVID-19 pandemic, as seen in “Pantheon.” These stories can no longer be viewed as mere metaphors. Our borders are now guarded with electric fences and barbed wire, and there is a growing trend of governments attempting to censor the internet, following the example of the Soviet Union. We find ourselves trapped by both physical and abstract barriers.
Following the easing of COVID restrictions earlier this year, individuals at the China-Vietnam border came together to commemorate the Huashan Festival and exchange New Year’s greetings, despite being separated by barbed wire and iron fences. In a similar manner, individuals also crossed the border into the United States on foot, as the phrase implies. Interestingly, both of these events are connected to the same underlying issue.
The barrier of barbed wire is referred to as a “wall” by the Vietnamese who are separated from their loved ones on the other side. The individuals on the other side are not seen as “Chinese” but rather as family members. During the festival, the Chinese authorities turned off the electricity on the fencing, possibly out of necessity rather than goodwill. They were unable to prevent gatherings and had to make an exception.
Of course, terms such as “crossing the line” and “United States” are obviously heavily restricted online, almost to the point of disappearance. However, I later learned that the country to which these bold souls traveled lacks even an “Immigration and Entry Administration.” It’s no mystery what drove them there.
However, let’s disregard all of these instances. The sole basis for us to engage in a meaningful conversation about “walls” is our shared understanding of the term. I remember a particular incident during my college years, where my 20-year-old roommate was encountering the concept of “walls” for the first time. She was incredibly intrigued and posed numerous inquiries. My other, more knowledgeable roommate and I attempted to clarify it to her. However, our explanations seemed like something out of a sci-fi story, an unimaginable fantasy, which only left her feeling more perplexed.
On that day, she was unable to successfully climb over the wall and it is doubtful that she ever did. Eventually, she pursued a job as a publicist for a government-owned company, a popular career choice among journalism graduates in our time. Initially, she continued to ask me about the content of our college professor’s politically radical posts on social media, implying that she believed the government had already taken sufficient actions. She believed that progress takes time and people should exercise patience. Over time, she fully embraced and supported the government, becoming a fervent “patriot.”
There was an additional roommate in our dormitory. He remained silent during our talks about “the wall” and appeared disinterested in the topic. After graduating, he pursued a career in teaching. In hindsight, it was evident that he would eventually become fully absorbed in the system and strive to climb the ranks.
I bear no resentment towards these individuals, nor do I intend to mock them. I care for them, but it saddens me to contemplate their circumstances.
A friend shared a story with me about scaling walls. Their first year of college was typical, but the following three were under a “zero-COVID policy” where they were confined indoors. Despite being in lockdown, some students attempted to climb the wall, resulting in broken bones, but they were unable to bring it down.
My mother is aware of my profession as a writer. Occasionally, she becomes uneasy with the content she comes across on the internet. During our conversations, she often reminds me, “Let’s keep this type of dialogue between us. You can share these thoughts with me, but don’t go broadcasting them to the entire internet. Everyone has their own opinions.” This is her indirect way of expressing that those who disagree with you are much more plentiful and vicious than those who support you. If you enter their territory, they will tear you apart.
The current situation can also be linked to the existence of the wall. Despite its short existence, its impact will be felt for centuries, “blessing” future generations.
My sister-in-law was approached by my five or six-year-old nephew who questioned if all Americans were bad people. She reassured him that there are both good and bad individuals in every country. However, the child had already formed a different belief. Despite her explanation, the news, teachers at school, and even grandpa all insisted she was mistaken.
Most of the time, the silent, impoverished masses keep their heads bowed, living like beasts of burden. Only when “patriotism” is invoked do their eyes open and their pupils dilate. Only then do they raise their voices and suddenly wax eloquent.
I have personally witnessed this and it continues to surprise me.
I came across a poem titled “The Wall” by Shu Ting while looking for metaphors related to walls tonight.
I am unable to battle the barrier.
I wish I could only dream.
What is my identity? and What does it refer to?
it’s just my aging skin,
I have become immune to the elements.
Unaware of the fragrance of orchids.
Maybe I am just for show-
a parasitic plant
leeching from a crack
my happenstance cements
The inevitable nature of the wall.
During the nighttime, the wall becomes animated.
Extending flexible false limbs.
to squeeze me, extort me,
contort me into various other shapes
Feeling fearful, I quickly run out into the streets.
I found myself in the same terrible situation once again.
Chasing after everyone closely–
crowds of averted eyes
Endless miles of icy walls.
I now know
I must initially engage in combat.
I constructed that wall.
and the fear
This world affects me deeply.
In recent times, China has built barbed wire barriers spanning thousands of kilometers along its borders with North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Myanmar, and neighboring nations.
This article was translated by Little Bluegill.
This poem was translated by Cindy Carter.