John Tenniel Illustration
Really great walls are taking on a growing role in the plans of many travelers. There’s talk, of course, of a really great wall going up along the U.S. Mexico border. And some Canadians have long thought there ought to be one along their border, too. But really great walls, as we are about to show you, have long been a bigly part of the travel experience.
The Really Great Wall of China
Stretching for some 5,500 miles, the remains of the Really Great Wall of China is an early example of how a massive barrier, many feet thick and even more high, is about as effective at keeping people on one side or the other as a stern lecture from a vice-principal is at keeping high school boys from spiking the punch at a homecoming dance.
The problem was that the Really Great Wall of China had some 1,387 miles of gaps so porous that they were thought to be responsible for the enormous success of Chinese take out. No doubt the gaps were responsible, too, for the rise of such popular ice cream flavors as “Mongol Madness.”
The Really Great Wall of China was most successful as a massive infrastructure project. At its height, wall construction put millions of Chinese to work, whether they wished to be or not. Cost over-runs were a problem though, largely because developers had not yet mastered working with such modern building materials as bull excrement.
Today, the most visited part of the wall, because of its easy access to Beijing, is the Badaling section. According to many critics, though, after fighting the crowds and hassling with the taxi drivers, visitors often come away feeling that it ought to be called the Just Ok Wall of China.
The Really Great Berlin Wall
From 1961 through 1989 the story surrounding the Really Great Berlin Wall, was, according to leaders of the East German government, the most bigly example of fake news ever reported.
With photos to back up their claim, East German leaders insisted that the Really Great Berlin Wall had in no way been a barrier to keep East Berlin citizens escaping to the West. Instead, they said, the 27-mile long, 11.8-foot high concrete structure had been a really great example — probably one of the greatest examples ever – of government support of the arts.
The wall was meant to be a public venue on which Berlin’s young artists — really great young artists — could showcase their talent through such time-honored media as spray paint.
The extent to which the Berlin government was willing to encourage such artistic expression was made evident, officials said, by the 20 bunkers, 302 guard towers, and uncounted other measures erected to safeguard the artists against interference by fascist and other anti-socialist Western elements.
The Really Great Berlin Wall was demolished in 1990. But commemorative pieces are still for sale. In fact, some 3.6 tons of the original 2.5 tons of concrete used in the construction can currently be purchased on e-Bay.
Humpty Dumpty’s Really Great Wall
Although parts of Humpty Dumpty’s Really Great Wall may still exist, the inspiration for the classic English nursery rhyme is a matter of dispute.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Humpty is depicted as an egg. Or — a reader could infer — someone with an ego as fragile as an egg.
In other interpretations, the clearly wobbly character has been a stand-in for any number of kings and other powerful public figures who, because of their overreach, end up taking such a great fall that not even all their horses and all their political advisors can put them together again.
There’s even an interpretation that holds wide sway, especially among pro-growth supporters, that Humpty Dumpty was a cannon that sat atop the wall surrounding the town of Colchester, England, during the English Civil War of 1642-51. Part of the wall still exists, but the story is that return fire from opposing forces so undermined its foundation that without sufficient infrastructure-funding most of it eventually came tumbling down.
One thing most interpreters agree on, though, is that the poem stands as a cautionary tale about the disaster that can befall anyone who uses a really great wall as a podium from which to draw attention to themselves.
The Really Great Wall Street
Among Americans who don’t get their news from traditional outlets, Wall Street is perhaps best known for its recent history of standing up to occupiers and other foreigners.
What many people don’t know, however, is that Wall Street is actually named after a really great wall, one built to keep out pirates, Native Americans, non-European Union members and, according to some sources, radical Islamic terrorists.
The original wall was a wooden palisade built at the south end of Manhattan by the Dutch in the 1600’s. Fortunately for much of America’s current population, it did not serve as a barrier for immigrants of British stock, who were able to get visa waivers.
The Really Great Wall-Mart
Wall-Mart is a really great American-owned retail store featured in an episode of the public affairs program South Park. The episode looks at what could happen in America if addiction treatment is not part of basic health care coverage.
The premise of the episode is that almost everyone in South Park is so addicted to Wall-Mart’s bargain prices that they stop shopping at other South Park businesses, putting the town into such a recessionary spiral that they are desperate to try anything that might make it really great again.
What they try is listening to a politician who promises that under his winning direction they will become the next state to benefit greatly from the legalization of marijuana. Too late, though, even the politician’s most ardent South Park supporters are faced with the reality that the town is in Colorado, where marijuana has already been legal for several years.
BobCarriesOn editor-in-chief Bob Payne sits on the wall on a great many issues.