Good fences make good neighbors. Or maybe not.
United States


00:00:05revisionist history is brought to you by FC a certified pre owned vehicles get peace of mind knowing every Chrysler Dodge jeep and ram certified vehicle passes a rigorous inspection by their expert trained technicians has a clean vehicle history and comes with a comprehensive factory backed warranty you any
00:00:26place you can get this peace of mind is at your local Chrysler Dodge jeep and ram dealership something there is that doesn't love a long that sends the frozen ground swell under it Robert Frost one of the greatest American poets reading mending wall I let my neighbor know
00:00:54beyond the hill and on a day we made to walk the line and set the wall between us they walked together down the border of their properties between his apple orchard and his neighbors pine trees every spring they have to mend the wall hauling stones to fill the
00:01:10gaps the narrator asks his neighbor do they really need a wall to keep pineapple trees apart they only says good fences make good neighbors spring is the mischief in me and I wonder if I could put on ocean Annie's head quieter they make good neighbors isn't it whether
00:01:28a college but in there on all college before I built along I'd ask to know what I was wallowing in or walling out and the home I was like to give offense and my name is Malcolm Gladwell you're listening to revisionist history my podcast about things overlooked a
00:01:49misunderstood this episode is about the most famous line from mending wall good fences make good neighbors written in nineteen fourteen as if it were yesterday the historic home of the US marine corps is the barracks in Washington DC eight denies streets near Capitol Hill from may until the
00:02:27end of August every Friday night the public is invited for evening parade good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the oldest post at the core marine barracks Washington DC celebrating over sixty years of performing evening parade it starts at eight forty five precisely on the immaculate lawn
00:02:47in front of the commandant's house the ritual of honoring the flag the famous silent drill the drum and bugle corps marines in the traditional white with dark tunics one hour and fifteen minutes of precision marching evening parade was the creation of general letter fielding Chapman junior when he
00:03:15assumed the command of the marine barracks in nineteen fifty seven Chapman believe marine parades had become anglicized too many theatrical flourishes check drills frivolity is like the queen and salute the small hats the British favor the heavy double soled shoes with pleats my policy was that we will
00:03:37be regulation Chapman once said we will be US marine corps regulation we will do everything in accordance with the marine corps regulations and will do it perfect I've been a handful of senior military leaders in my life they're not like CEOs who represent an infinite range a variation
00:04:02on the general theme of tall white guy generals are the product of one of the world's largest and most rigorous meritocracy is to get to the top they've had to be more disciplined than the discipline people and then at the next level up smarter than the smart people
00:04:17then at the level after that more charismatic than the charismatic people and on and on all the way up to five stars generals are the winners of a single elimination tournament that goes on for thirty years Chapman was appointed commandant of the marine corps in nineteen sixty seven
00:04:40served with distinction for four years during one of the most difficult periods in marine corps history he was a southerner who love Lincoln of a rations reader an intellectual the man who did as much as anyone to bring the civil rights revolution to the marine corps jasmine was
00:04:57once interviewed by a marine corps historian and by the end of the recording which runs for hours you want to follow him into battle toward the end of the war when we were pulling out of the home I came to the decision that we were going to %HESITATION
00:05:14clean house shape up or ship out Chapman shrink the marines from three hundred thousand to two hundred thousand men let go every marine that he felt did not measure up made sure everyone who remained knew what the score was than I'd like my speech about tightening up the
00:05:34ring Gorham going back to our standards and I got uploaded every time and it was in such sharp contrast to what was happening in the other servers see the other services %HESITATION loosen their standards %HESITATION you know long hair bigger in the barracks though navy specially navy especially
00:05:57yeah %HESITATION we what exactly opposite directions the navy loosened their standards sort of the army three we would see look like while he was very handsome he was of you know with the pictures of him when he was young ending a pretty incredibly you know dashing sort of
00:06:17man this is the generals granddaughter Daniel Chapman and he was still very handsome when he was in his sixties and seventies and tall you know we still have that military posture to and also just in an incredible stamina and and he actually was very proud of that too
00:06:37on on the golf course that until he was in his eighties you know he walked and carried as clubs and he would really rib his body is about that and he would say you know they would ride in the car and he would say %HESITATION %HESITATION there were
00:06:51over there writing in that cheeseburger wagon you know but he was he was he was walking and caring as clubs the whole way general Chapman retired from the marine corps in nineteen seventy one but he didn't take a lucrative job in the defense industry like so many ex
00:07:08military brass do instead he goes to his boss the secretary of defense and asks for help in finding another job in government he gets his wish in nineteen seventy three his name commissioner of what was then called the immigration and naturalization service the agency responsible for securing the
00:07:27borders of the United States know what is he do that being head of the marine corps is the job of enormous prestige the I. N. S. in nineteen seventy three was a backwater why would someone take such a big step down it's not obvious until you think about
00:07:47what Chapman has just been through Vietnam he ran the marine corps during the worst years of the war and what was Vietnam War about a border the country was split into the communist government in the north and a pro western government in the south and the north kept
00:08:06sending insurgents across the border to make trouble in the self that's why the US went to Vietnam to secure the border the marines were in the thick of it they were way up in the farthest corner of South Vietnam right on the border with the north a one
00:08:21point the secretary of defense wanted a wall built along the border to stop the north Vietnamese from trickling in it was the job of the marine corps to build it and they couldn't do it they couldn't secure the border nothing worked Chapman saw the failure first hand the
00:08:37trouble with Vietnam for the record was that the army was in charge of the whole thing Chapman son Welton joined the marines and served in Vietnam and the marines that were there my dad had no tactical control in other words he couldn't tell the twenty six marines to
00:09:04leave case on and go somewhere else general Chapman would make the long journey to Vietnam many times but all he could offer was moral support there's a moment in his oral history when Chapman describes the orders that came down from the Pentagon when the US military shipped out
00:09:20of Vietnam each branch of the military was supposed to pack up and sent home anything worth more than fifty dollars Chapman said no the marines would bring home everything worth five dollars or more father Moriah should in order that we leave our spaces in Vietnam ready for inspection
00:09:41everything cleaned up all the trash buried of all the temporary buildings knocked down and disposed of and we did that to relive their left everyone of our areas in impeccable condition ready for inspection that's what the marine corps was reduced to in Vietnam being the best tidying up
00:10:05behind them how could someone like Chapman be satisfied with that if he couldn't defend the borders of South Vietnam then maybe running the I. N. S. would be his second chance heroes like nothing better than to be able to say yes border is secure Mister secretary of the
00:10:25interior borders no secure in the nineteen seventies a young sociologist name Douglas Massey became interested in the subject of Mexican migration it was then as now a matter of political significance Massey was struck by how little is actually known about the problem nobody really understood exactly where migrants
00:10:56were coming from or exactly where they were going or for that matter what they were doing once they got to the US and what happened to the families they left behind sociologists are the great no takers the social sciences they use to projects the stretch out for years
00:11:14that even consume entire careers the mass he decided to be a good sociologist and study migration properly found a partner a Mexican anthropologist named Jorge Deronda and the two of them begin systematically interviewing families of migrants around Mexico we picked communities pick forty six communities every year we
00:11:37do a complete household roster and collect a basic social demographic information and everybody in the household plus detailed information on everybody's first and last trip to the United States the total number of trips I've taken the survey is called the Mexican migration project after thirty years its massive
00:11:56millions of life years of information case histories extraordinary detail it's the gold standard this is got to be one of the %HESITATION world's biggest migration databases it's certainly the biggest and most reliable on Mexico US migration when the government wants to know what goes on they don't go
00:12:17to the what a patrol because they're Gator lousy they come to the Mexican migration project in all of that you'll work with this project was earning you run across that really surprised you I guess what surprised me in the late seventies when I first saw this was just
00:12:33how routine it had become and and how institutionalized the circulation was and how it was woven into the fabric of Mexican life at the time how institutionalize the circulation was the principal finding the Mexican migration project is that Mexican migration to United States has a distinctive pattern is
00:12:54overwhelmingly circular in what is circular mean exactly means they work seasonally in the United States and return home on a annual basis with to be with their families cities workers there are they leaving their families back in Mexico yeah it's overwhelmingly male young young males %HESITATION and they're
00:13:15the typical pattern is city you go for several times to earn some money to help you back home what made the back and forth circulation possible with the fact that for most of the twentieth century the border between Mexico and the United States was porous more of a
00:13:31line on a map than actual border the border patrol was a tiny force in those years there were no walls no surveillance drones if you got stopped you got turned around and sent back home then you try again our families in many of family that was born and
00:13:49raised in the border area Carlos Maranta as a labor organizer and former migrant worker talking about his childhood in the nineteen sixties growing up and wore as Mexico he and his friends used to swim across the Rio Grande carrying watermelons that they would sell on the American side
00:14:08like the river was a pond in their backyard we see no Hannah says that we were leaving told the friend countries to us being children means that the unknown though we were living in a big city with two neighborhoods one south of the river one north of the
00:14:31reaper rent is saying in economic terms is that the cost of crossing was effectively zero it was free what happens when something is free you use as much of it as you can usually they leave in February March season start picking up and a return in December for
00:14:55the holidays and there's a big fiesta in migrant sending towns Messi saying that Mexico was were family and roots were it was cheap and close America was your money to be made easily and quickly this is not the way say Jewish immigrants came to the United States in
00:15:14the nineteenth century letting go back to Eastern Europe every summer noted the Italians came over in the same period entire villages moved on mass from southern Italy to the United States permanently the price of returning where they came from was not zero their homeland was not welcoming and
00:15:34even if it were the cost of crossing the ocean was so high that it could not be done routinely but Mexican migration was different customer enters remembers his grandfather telling him that he wanted to return to Mexico to socket take this so there's the attraction to going to
00:15:55go back to make a goal will be to go back to your real home plan to their little community that you left behind find me these with your he story with everything all during the entity this is not the story the United States tells itself the inscription on
00:16:20the statue of liberty does not read give me your tired your poor your huddled masses yearning to breathe free for six months until you make enough money to go home again when we think of immigration we think of the Jewish and Italian model permanence second thing circular immigration
00:16:40is very hard to measure border controls are designed to count the number of people coming in not the number of people leaving because we assume the number coming in is what matters which it is in most cases but not in the case of Mexico because if a huge
00:16:56group of people eventually go back home again the only number that matters is net migration those who come in minus those who go home and thirdly most important circular migration is the result of a zero cost border crossing it is what happens when you can swim across the
00:17:19Rio Grande or walk from water is in Mexico to el Paso in Texas so what happens to circular migration when the cost of migrating is no longer zero one of the things that general Leonard Chapman heard when he took over the I. N. S. was that his predecessor
00:17:39had never left Washington DC for someone coming from the marine corps that was unthinkable leaders review their troops Sir Chapman set out to visit every I. N. S. field office close to four hundred of them all over the world some with no more than two or three people
00:17:57and it took me three years to do it but I'm I got every single one walks two men is a lot of travel talking to what troops German modernize the agency when it came to information management he thought the INS was thirty years behind the marine corps Chapman
00:18:22said about public affairs office the first in the agency's history a familiar face on Capitol Hill and the more he learned the more alarmed he became there was as he put it a general laxity in the enforcement of immigration laws for goodness sake kids were swimming across the
00:18:42Rio Grande selling their watermelons and then going back home again people were treating the border like it was just a line on a map reviews easy juror that is your one five million fifty million seventy five one hundred that's the only way yeah why not there's no machinery
00:19:03to stop in nineteen seventy three when Chapman took over the I. N. S. the cost of crossing the Mexican border was effectively zero by the time he left in nineteen seventy seven it was not and so it began in nineteen eighty six comes the immigration reform and control
00:19:26act which militarize is the border then operation blockade which stiffens up the border crossing in el Paso operation gatekeeper which different at the border crossing in San Diego the budget of the border patrol between the mid nineteen eighties and two thousand and ten increases ten fold and then
00:19:48today with the Attorney General of the United States sometimes sounds like commandant Jefferson sessions I have put in place a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our southwest border if you cross the border unlawfully then we will prosecute you is that sample the cost of crossing the
00:20:13border has been escalating for a generation and it began with letter Chapman we're running out %HESITATION right after I first got there that showed that over something like fifteen percent of them are people ever heard all when I left three years later and we have another yeah over
00:20:36eighty five percent in his years in office Chapman made two hundred and fifty speeches across the United States this is at the same time that he's personally visiting every I. N. S. field office and overseeing the complete overhaul of the agency and making his argument over again on
00:20:56Capitol Hill and giving hundreds of press interviews the United States went from an I. N. S. headed by someone who never left his desk to an agency headed by someone who couldn't stay at his desk he was relentless wake in America we're telling the merger of our problems
00:21:17Americans didn't think they had in the legal immigration problem letter Chapman convince them that they did revisionist history is brought to you by FC a certified pre owned vehicles I don't know if you realize it's about me but I'm a huge car not and one thing I've always
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00:21:56certified pre owned vehicle comes in get peace of mind knowing every Chrysler Dodge jeep and ram certified vehicle passes a rigorous inspection by their expert trained technicians has a clean vehicle history and comes with a comprehensive factory backed warranty the only place you can get this peace of
00:22:18mind is at your local Chrysler Dodge jeep and ram dealership visit them today when I was fourteen growing up in Canada I went to a week long track and field training camp at the international peace garden it's a park straddling the border between North Dakota and the Canadian
00:22:40province of Manitoba I go for long runs each morning with two friends one day we noticed a diner on the American side so we hopped the fence and got a burger I say fence because the border in that stretch of prairie was just a fence the type that
00:22:58someone in the suburbs might have around the backyard on our way back to Canada we was spotted by a border patrol officer he arrested us put us in the back of his car and took us to the nearest I. N. S. office we had to put our names
00:23:12in a book underneath a big photo of president Jimmy Carter I decided to be clever wrote my name is William F. Buckley then we got dropped off back at the border fence with a stern lecture when I got home and told my parents they found the whole thing
00:23:31hilarious but as you can imagine it left an impression that burger at the diner was my first visit to the United States and they ended up in the back of a patrol car I first read Robert Frost spending will not long afterwards in school the poem is a
00:23:51back and forth between a man and his neighbor over the value of their fence one side says good fences make good neighbors the other side the narrator says maybe not it all depends on who the fences keeping in or out right so my first read I sided with
00:24:09the narrator because all I could think of was offense I just jump between Manitoba North Dakota we were fourteen year olds and the fact that there wasn't much of a fence between the countries at that point meant that we could do normal fourteen year old things like get
00:24:23a burger what a better fence there have made us better neighbors what would we have just gone hungry Ross neighbor thinks good fences solve problems and the funny thing about that poem is how many people agree with him but do good fences make good neighbors or do they
00:24:39just disrupt normal patterns of behavior so what happened when the Mexican border became a good fence well the historical Mexican migration pattern was that young man came to America worked went home came back went home again that's what Douglas Massey documented in the Mexican migration project our data
00:25:01from mixed immigration project indicate that between nineteen sixty five and nineteen eighty five eighty five percent of all undocumented entries were offset by departures so the net inflows to small between nineteen sixty five and nineteen eighty five lots and lots of Mexican migrants came to the United States
00:25:19without legal status but almost all of them eventually went home but then the border patrol was expanded the crossing opportunities throughout Paso and San Diego were shut down and migrants had to adapt they shifted from the fortified crossings in el Paso and San Diego to the most brutal
00:25:38parts of southern Arizona now you're on that little high desert open desert it's been really cold at night boiling hot during the day there's no water and %HESITATION gets mount and when you're out in the middle of nowhere it's more costly to stage a crossing the financial incentive
00:25:56to come to the United States remains but returning home is now suddenly so risky that you don't do it every six months or every Christmas or maybe even ever he stay in as the male worker stay longer and longer family reunification occurs station for their lives and younger
00:26:15children and those younger children %HESITATION today's dreamers in nineteen eighty what was the likelihood of a Mexican migrant returning home after his first trip to the United States according to the Mexican migration projects data he was about fifty percent by twenty ten it's zero we built a wall
00:26:38to keep Mexican migrants out in fact the wall has kept them in people who would otherwise have gone home stayed so long they put down in March of twenty sixteen Douglas Massey along with Jorge Deronda Karen Prent published a brilliant paper in the American Journal of sociology why
00:26:58border enforcement backfired in which they ask a hypothetical question what would have happened if the United States had done nothing over the past thirty years frozen the budget and staff of the border patrol at nineteen eighty six levels allow for some circular migration the researchers estimate the undocumented
00:27:20Mexican population of the U. S. would be about a third lower a third lower than it is now this is according to the people who know more than anyone else about Mexican migration who have access to one of the biggest immigration databases in the world and what is
00:27:40their conclusion that the attempt to solve the problem of illegal Mexican migrants is what has caused the problem of illegal Mexican migrants you can just hear the frustration in Douglas Massey's voice for me I've been watching this train wreck in real time for the past two decades really
00:28:00and I kept trying to tell people that you know when it comes to border enforcement less is more and if you militarize the border you can produce a larger undocumented population I said this before the house Judiciary Committee in the Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on immigration and what
00:28:15happens after mass he testifies the same thing happens every time nothing and then the ranking minority member whose represents king from Texas gets up and basically says take your line date and go home because we know what the truth is we're being invaded we've got to stop this
00:28:34Messi says we need to do the exact opposite of what we're doing now when we raise the cost of crossing the border that shutdown circulation if you want to restore circulation then you should make the border easier to cross reduce the size of the border patrol don't increase
00:28:52it make it easier for migrants to get legal status not harder she one day would lower the number of %HESITATION %HESITATION Mexicans living United States given green cards and a lot of won't go home the US is not that nice a place for people for Mexicans these days
00:29:10and but they have families here to get US one can stay and if they know they can come back to the home if we had kept things the way they were in the early nineteen seventies the same badly run border patrol the same ineffectual leadership the same in
00:29:29different public we wouldn't be tearing our hair out over immigration if there was ever a place for bad government he was on the southern U. S. border but what we get we got the one guy who couldn't do that government the man hunted by his country's failure to
00:29:47build a wall in Vietnam I think you came out with a comment about the long range a green %HESITATION saying there's a fascinating moment in general Chapman's oral history his interviewer asks about racial troubles that rocked the marine corps in the late sixties the civil rights movement was
00:30:06at its apex there was a near race ride at camp la June fist fights among soldiers in Vietnam black marines wanted to be treated with the same consideration as white marines Chapman's response may be his most memorable pronouncement all marines are green not black not white the color
00:30:27of the uniform is what matters backed up by directive on racial discrimination sent to every officer under his command he even made a Solomonic ruling on the prohibition against black soldiers wearing their hair and an Afro hair he said was hair the concern of the marine corps was
00:30:46not with its form only with its length was that within those limits some rain can stop our hair anyway wants to yup that's what it's so that if you're a black marine wanted to have an Afro there was no more than three inches long was neat and trim
00:31:04around stuff five one not in yeah in the evening parade to participate in the evening paraded eight tonight you used to have to be a perfect specimen of military manhood more than six feet tall no glasses and white Chapman says what can't you be a perfect specimen of
00:31:33military men hood and black he desegregated evening parade that got him hold before a congressional committee full of angry southerners Chapman describes the experience with typical understatement as a quote interesting few hours but I'm a deep southerner myself and so I was able to battle them with good
00:31:56effect on court I'm curious if you were here today will you make of the way we talk about immigration with a debate is changed I'm not sure what he would say this is Chapman's granddaughter Danielle again he really disliked complaining and you know he would always say if
00:32:17anybody was %HESITATION well okay what are you going to do about it you know he was incredibly pragmatic so I think that he would probably view a lot of the current conversation as just a bunch of noise without a solution so what was his solution then general Chapman
00:32:36did what came naturally he enforce the law he drew the line he made a complicated issue clear he didn't like the idea of you know mass illegal immigration but at the same time his views had none of the tone that the immigration debate has now he he just
00:32:58didn't think of it in racial or ethnic terms I never heard him talk about it like that or or attach the kind of emotions that you hear people attaching to it in the current debate general Chapman travel to every corner of the United States and stood up in
00:33:21that deliberate ramrod straight marine corps way and told the American people plainly and clearly what needed to be done can I felt him can't I wish there were more people like letter Chapman especially these days it's just that in some cases complicated things are best left unclear and
00:33:43we're better off letting whatever it is that doesn't love a wall rents course something there is that doesn't love a wall that want Saddam I could say owes them but it's not elves exactly and I'd rather he said it for himself I see him there bringing a stone
00:34:03grasped firmly by the top in each hand like an old stone savage John it moves in darkness as it seems to me not a woods on a in the shade of trees it will not go behind his father saying that he likes having thought of it so well
00:34:18he says again good fences make good neighbors revisionist history is a panoply production senior producer is mela bell with Jacob Smith and Camille Baptiste our editor is Julie apart Flon Williams is our engineer fact checking by Beth Johnson original music by Louis scare a special thanks to AC
00:34:48Valdez for capturing the sounds of the evening and for the audio Robert Frost thanks to the National Council of teachers of English and thanks as always to any Bowers and commandant Jacob Weisberg I'm asking that I think the only time I can remember him really getting angry with
00:35:15me was when I kind of blasphemed the constitution and I don't know why I would do that %HESITATION except he was a teenager hello fellow revisionist historians I'm delighted to tell you that I'll be following up this season the show with an all new project from panoply broken
00:35:36record will be out this November think it in his liner notes for the digital era I'll be discussing debating and learning about music from people who know a thing or two legendary producer Rick Rubin and former New York times editor Bruce had again that's broken record coming in
00:35:56the member but you can subscribe on apple podcast right now

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