Please Fence Me In

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By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, November 26, 2006

The United States is about to build a $6 billion, 700-mile fence along its 1,900-plus-mile border with Mexico, one that will send would-be illegal immigrants an unmistakable message: Keep Out, or Just Go Around.

We can only hope this is just the start of a new era of partitioning. What America needs are more fences, walls, ditches, pits, trenches, berms, embankments, dikes, levees, ramparts, parapets, bulwarks, palisades, breakwaters, jetties and every other kind of physical divider imaginable. We need a country known around the planet for its incredible use of Bob's Barricades. We can solve complex political and economic problems with the kind of bricks, mortar, steel and giant slabs of quarried stone that made this country great in, for example, 1835.

First we must decide how, exactly, to build the big fence between the United States and Mexico. An attempt by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) to locate the fence in his home state has proved unsuccessful. Engineers have shot down the proposal by some liberal groups -- a white picket fence with flower boxes and, every quarter-mile, a swinging gate -- as insufficiently intimidating. The National Bamboo Association has gotten nowhere with its proposal to build a "Grass Curtain."

Conservatives, meanwhile, hope the fence will set a standard for what they call The New Repellence. They want hidden cameras, gargoyles, searchlights, machine guns, death rays, booby traps and, in what some say is overkill, a missile-defense system to blast from the sky any nuclear weapons launched by smugglers.

Will the fence work? Of course it will work, except for the 1,100-plus miles that are not fenced. And there will probably be remote stretches of fence where smugglers will simply punch a hole right through it. That's why Congress needs to pass immediately a critical supplemental bill, the Duct Tape Act of 2006. Americans believe there is no problem so grave that we cannot solve it, in part, with duct tape.

So what's next? Some suggestions:

The Great Wall of Capitol Hill: Circles major congressional buildings and prevents any lawmaker from exiting without a permit. (Auxiliary element: tunnel leading to The Palm.)

The K Street Money Canal: Carries cash and "slush funds" from lobbyists to government officials. Investigative reporters patrol in gondolas.

The Ultra-Deluxe Window Unit of the Gods: To combat global warming, a really humongous air-conditioning unit that blows cool air into the atmosphere and protrudes from a really humongous window. Not only will be the size of Texas, but will literally be on top of Texas. Many problems solved at once.

Magnet Schools: School walls lined with powerful magnets that yank guns and knives from criminally minded students. (Complicating factor: students pinned to walls by nose rings and tongue studs.)

National White Noise Network: Millions of speakers, mounted on poles and fire hydrants, which distribute high-pitched dog-whistle-like noise that makes it easier to concentrate in a nation afflicted with attention deficit. (December exception: broadcasts of "The Nutcracker," Christmas carols, "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.")

Intracontinental Conveyor Belt: Conveyor belts/moving sidewalks that replace all superhighways. Rather than drive, motorists and truckers park vehicles on a belt, can talk freely on cellphones or play computer games, and never look up until they hear: "Caution, the moving sidewalk is ending."

Hole to the Center of Earth: Draws heat to the surface to power electric turbines; creates all-purpose trash disposal chute. Downside: danged magma on everything.

Stairway to Heaven: Combines needs of NASA and religious groups, and helps Led Zeppelin with comeback tour.

The Cheney Pit: Location undisclosed even to the vice president. Healthful meals will be lowered thrice daily as a humanitarian gesture. (Pit comes with Poe-like pendulum, currently inactivated because of a narrow reading of the Geneva Conventions.)

The Kerry Amphitheater: Where only the Massachusetts senator is allowed to appear on the podium. Indeed, he is required to appear there. Located in Antarctica.

And, finally, The America Dome: Covers the entire United States of America. Impenetrable and opaque, it facilitates our new motto: "What Happens in the Rest of the World Stays in the Rest of the World."

Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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