A border fence will not solve immigration issues
In response to your Feb. 29 editorial, "On a fence at the border": As a resident of Arizona (where the United States southern border is at its most porous), I believe building a fence is a waste of money. Any student of history will tell you border fences are as ineffective as they are offensive.
Instead, America should leverage its expertise in credit card authorization to track immigrants. Knowing who's in the country, where they are, and what they're doing is critical to national security. We can do this by issuing immigrants a visa with a magnetic strip or computer chip.
Whenever immigrants rent an apartment, apply for a job, or engage in other important activities, they could be required to swipe their visa using a terminal similar to those in retail stores. I'm sure MasterCard, Visa, or American Express would be happy to tackle this project. Tracking immigrants isn't the only measure that's needed, but it would be money well spent – unlike a fence.
Regarding your recent editorial on a border fence: Does what the Soviet Union tried in Germany and what Israel is trying in the Near East mean nothing to us? The expense and appearance of a fence around us says so very much about our failure as a country in international relations.
We need to enter into discussions and actions with our neighbors on how best to help them make it better for their people to live and work at home.
Regarding your recent editorial on a fence along the US-Mexican border: I agree that technical problems are ultimately fixable, but a virtual fence "in the field" should be working now, without waiting until 2011. If Boeing can't do the work properly, someone else can. Fifty years of space exploration proves that the United States has the knowledge, technical superiority, and resources to build a virtual fence in a respectable time frame.
Real fences are impediments to resolving conflicts by negotiation and are psychologically detrimental, as they are perceived as being prisonlike and they are false barriers. Robert Frost, the poet, said it best in his poem, "Mending Wall," in which the great irony is spoken by a neighbor, "Good fences make good neighbors." When we are dealing with people, not apples, there has to be a better way.
Mary Rose Hoffman
Palm Coast, Fla.
We don't need a charismatic president
Regarding Warren Bennis and Andy Zelleke's Feb. 28 Opinion piece, "Barack Obama and the case for charisma": The authors say Senator Obama is a charismatic and inspiring leader "with the transformational capacity to lift the malaise that is paralyzing so many Americans..." They say he "could restore a sense of agency to the American people, imbuing us with the confidence that the choices we make and the actions we take can shape our families' and our country's future, that we are not the hapless victims of forces we cannot control."
Voters who believe they can cast their votes for Obama (or any other "charismatic" candidate), and then wait for him somehow to alleviate their malaise, imbue them with confidence, free them from paralysis, and free them from hapless victimhood, will remain powerless forever. Empowerment bestowed is not empowerment at all. Empowerment comes only from within. Those who think otherwise will always be victims. I do not believe most American voters are such victims, or that they are yearning for a charismatic leader. Most voters want competent candidates whose views most closely approximate their own, and who will make and implement policy accordingly.
Lewin W. Wickes
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