Classic Border Wall from Pixabay

There is a major controversy brewing within the Army Corps of Engineers,

which is charged with issuing the RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for the wall along the southern border. The design competition has winnowed the possible builders to a manageable list, but there is a stubborn issue that may have to go all the way to the White House for resolution.

The winning design copies a common anti-burglar feature seen in Mexico. There will be glass bottles in the layer of cement along the top. The theory is that anyone trying to cross the wall will break the long necks and create a mini-wall of sharp glass across the top. The U.S. version adds an alarm circuit that notifies the nearest Border Patrol station of an attempted breach so, in theory, the person impaled would not be left to bleed out.

There was a sub-competition for product placement, initially won by Grupo Modelo, one of the largest brewing conglomerates in Mexico. Mr. Trump did not like the winning design with alternating bottles labeled “Corona” and “Negra Modelo.” The objection was “too much Spanish,” and the bidder offered to meet that objection by acquiring the bottles of “Duff” that never got filled with beer because of a copyright dispute.

After the compromise was rejected, the re-bid resulted in alternating bottles labeled “Budweiser” and “Bud Light.” Mr. Trump offered no objection grounded on the copyright dispute between Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser Budvar Brewery of České Budějovice. A high level employee of the Corps of Engineers who was not authorized to comment on the record said, “It’s really unlikely that anybody seeing those labels would think they were at the border of the Czech Republic.”

The latest controversy will not require a third round of bidding because the outcome will not affect the cost. The border is 1,954 miles long. Mr. Trump inherited 580 miles of physical barriers. The remaining 1,374 miles are designated in the United States Code the “Great Wall of Trump” and the specifications call for glass signs in every prefabricated section of wall (sizes differ by topography) reading “TRUMP.” There will be a cavity behind the glass where lights can be put when money is available.

The controversy is over whether the “TRUMP” signs should face the United States or Mexico.

I will let up now because I expect everybody has caught on. How about you? At what point did your satire detector kick in?

The thing that made this attempt possible was Mr. Trump’s ego. At this writing, his Twitter feed is about to spend a solid week claiming that Hurricane Dorian was about to strike Alabama just before it struck The Bahamas.

This self-inflicted wound joins the crowd at the Trump Inaugural being bigger than the crowd at the Obama Inaugural, millions of votes cast for Hillary Clinton by undocumented persons, Trump Tower bugged by the Obama Administration, and too many others to mention.

In dubbing Trump “King of Whoppers,” put it this way:

The Washington Post created a new category of falsehood rating in December 2018, the “Bottomless Pinocchio.” To qualify for the new category, the lie must be repeated at least 20 times. Trump is the only recipient of a Bottomless Pinocchio so far; he has fourteen.

Now, how many lies have supported the mythical wall on our southern border? It’s become mythical because he repeatedly claims the project is moving right along and — even more absurd — that Mexico will pay for it.

When the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, they refused to fund Mr. Trump’s vanity project. There is no way to know which Congresspeople did not believe Trump’s statements about how many unlawful entries were happening versus how many believed that building a wall would make no difference.

Then Trump shut down the government over the demand that his vanity wall be funded. It was not funded, but he lied and said it was and his base believed him. That would have been a good time to give it up, after Mexico would not pay for it, the Republicans would not pay for it, Congress as a whole would not pay for it….but now it appears the children of active duty GIs will pay for it.

Mr. Trump declared a fake emergency to allow him to divert money already appropriated from some 127 military projects to pay for the wall. An unusual number of them appear to be remodeling old schools and building new schools.

Why does the military run K-12 schools? The practice began when that was the only way children of soldiers — white and African-American — could attend integrated schools. President Harry Truman integrated the U.S. armed forces by executive order in 1948. Brown v. Board of Education ordered civilian K-12 schools integrated in 1954, but the promise of Brown remained elusive in the courts for over 20 years and still has not been borne out on the ground.

Those of us living near major military installations have another reason for military K-12 put in our faces. GIs, men and women, are deploying to the zones of endless wars every other year. Some kids have never in their lives had both parents at home except for brief overlaps between deployments, and every time there is a KIA they understand it could have been mom or dad.

The all-volunteer military combined with endless wars have created two social experiments that are still playing out. The one that gets most attention is PTSD and the impact of recycling back into combat endlessly. The one that is proceeding more quietly is the impact on children of having one or both parents deployed for most of their lives. The emotional load imposed on those kids is more easily borne among kids in like circumstances with teachers who gain experience dealing with the issues that arise.

These are the reasons there is no serious move to close the military schools. Unfortunately, keeping them open does not extend to upkeep of the buildings. Particularly egregious is the diverting of money away from Mahaffey Middle School at Ft. Campbell, the home assignment for many special operator troops who deploy repeatedly as needed, as well as the Screamin’ Eagles — the storied 101st Airborne Division.

The troops at Ft. Campbell had reason to hope Mahaffey would be protected. The school is 40 years old, overcrowded, and Congress has been aware of growing needs since 2007. Also, Ft. Campbell is represented by the most powerful man in the senate, Moscow Mitch McConnell.

No such luck. Education of Army troops’ kids is giving way for Donald Trump’s vanity project. I recommend the “TRUMP” signs face the United States. So we don’t forget.

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)

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