A Fence to Step Over

Wars are fought over borders. Presidential candidates support absurd border fences. Nations erect walls naively thinking they will somehow ensure their safety. These fences pit people against each other and fuel the fans of hatred and bigotry.

However, sometimes fences serve useful purposes. Responsible dog owners have a fenced backyard to allow their dogs to get some exercise in their backyards, while keeping the dogs out of other backyards and safe from street traffic.

Sometimes fences are really just symbolic. These symbolic fences are not designed to separate people. Rather, they simply demarcate different plots of land.

Last weekend, under the auspices of the Goose Lake Watershed District (GLWD), which I Chair, my friend (and former Chair and Treasurer of the GLWD) Onie Karch, who lives on the other side of Goose Lake from me, and I painted a fence at the beach at Goose Lake, which had recently been repaired. As this picture shows, it is a simple, low, white fence, which simply marks the property line between the private homeowner’s front yard, and the public beach.

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Onie and I spent a couple of hours painting the fence. We could easily step over the fence to paint both sides. John, who lives in the house on the other side of the fence, was unable to help us paint the fence due to recent knee surgery, but he gladly offered us water and was pleased to see the fence being maintained.

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Symbolically separating the beach from private property simply allows the public to enjoy the beach without negatively impacting on the private property owner’s land. Maintaining the beach and the fence has brought praise from both visitors and local residents, some of whom have been kind enough to extend praise for the improved beach to the Town of Jackson Chairman. This type of goodwill will likely encourage the Town of Jackson to help the GLWD improve the road leading to the boat launch to reduce unwanted runoff into the lake.

So, instead of building fences that fuel fear and hatred, policy makers should strategically build fences we can step over, allowing us to build community and make friends with our neighbors and the visitors whom we are glad to welcome into our neighborhood.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

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One thought on “A Fence to Step Over

  1. Having grown up during the Cold War with the Iron Curtain and the fear of nuclear war over the Berlin Wall, I am not a fan of fences. I rejoiced when the Berlin Wall was torn down and the Iron Curtain collapsed.

    I watch in horror as Israel builds a separation barrier often over the its internationally recognized border of the 1948 cease fire Green Line.

    But then I contemplate the incredible success of the often overlooked and almost forgotten fence in Cyprus.

    After the 1974 war, a “fence” separated the mostly Muslim Turkish Cypriots in the north from the mostly Orthodox Christian Cypriots in the south.

    After almost 40 years of separation behind that fence violence has ended and negotiations have resulted in an agreement on reunification into a one federal state. A few issues remain unresolved but a final settlement is within reach. As that process has moved forward more openings have been made in the fence.

    Observing that success, I now share Jeff perspective that when used strategically, fences can build communities.

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