Fences, Walls and a Question

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a very moving performance of August Wilson's play Fences. This Pulitzer Prize winning drama tells the story of Troy Maxson, an African-American former baseball player and husband and father, struggling to come to terms with the limits he encounters in his life. The play's title is intended to be understood in a number of ways, including literally. (Throughout most of the play Troy's wife Rose is urging him to build a fence in their yard.) It's significance is summed up in a remark made by Bono, Troy's best friend. "Some people," he says, "build fences to keep people out . . . and other people build fences to keep people in." The Wilson play was written in 1985, decades before the current debate about building a wall on the southern border. But I must say, as I have thought about that line in particular, I have been wondering whether building the border wall is about keeping out certain people, those who come from Mexico, Central America and beyond, or is it about keeping in a certain understanding of what it means to be an American? Setting aside for the moment the question of the efficacy of a wall--will it really work as envisioned--I can't help but wonder about its philosophical implications. Are we looking to keep people out or in? (Note: The Florida Repertory Company production of Fences runs through this Wednesday, January 30; and tickets are still available. Visit www.floridarep.org.


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