Tear Down The Wall This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   "We have met the enemy and he is us." This statement is not exactly the ideal battle cry of a general leading his troops into a conventional war, but when waging war on the problem of prejudice, it is most appropriate. We are our own enemies. We slowly surround ourselves with psychological walls of fear and misconceptions about each other. Not knowing how to deal with differences among us, we simply distrust anyone who is different, and reject them by ridiculing instead of accepting. We only accept those who mirror our own characteristics (skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc...) and erect a wall around this select group. We reject people who are different from us until we eliminate every shade and sliver of variation. All that we leave is a memory of uniqueness, putting in its place false, prejudices, protective, and conforming walls. Our walls serve as shields against all outside distinction, insulating our real selves with a guise that reinforces all the fear and misconception about those behind other walls. Many different groups form their own walls, all having their individual codes of acceptance. These codes are very strict, very stable, and very close-minded. And it is the confrontation of differences between two groups that spawns our ideas of enemies and violence.

But it is not the other group that is the "enemy." The true enemies are the original bias and fear that form the bricks of our own walls and our own selves. These are the basis of the codes of acceptance that are etched in the stone wall of rejection.

An example of groups with walled-in codes of acceptance that I have come into contact with are the "Freaks" and "Jocks." Each is characterized by generalizations: "Jocks" are people who play sports and are "dumb." "Freaks," on the other hand, are non-conformists, but end up as a paradox. They conform to non-conformity. They tend to dress in army drab and black clothes. "Freaks" are also thoughtful and strongly inclined towards the arts. However, we know that "members" of these groups do not necessarily fall completely into these categories, but we find it simpler to categorize people, placing them into a group, and then explore their complexities.

Our labeling, then, is more often than not a mislabeling. The labeling actually leads to confrontations between these groups; sometimes only a dirty look, other times actual fighting. Usually, though, these confrontations involve name calling, with each group viewing the other as the "enemy." Why does this happen? It happens because both groups are exactly alike in their fears and prejudices of the other that gives rise to such feelings.

The rock group, Pink Floyd, poses a more general example of people's fear and misconceptions of perceived enemies through satire in their album, "The Wall." One of these satires is seen in the song, "In the Flesh." Here the misconceptions and prejudices about people's skin color, religion, and sexual orientation are clearly presented. Roger Waters sings:

Are there any queers in the

theatre tonight?

Get 'em up against the wall.

Get them!

There's one in the spotlight.

He don't look right to me,

Get him up against the wall.

Get them!

And that one looks Jewish

And that one's a coon.

Who let all this riffraff into

the room?

There's one smoking a joint

And another with spots!

If I had my way I'd have

them all shot!

With the use of strong language and vibrant images, this song displays a strong and blunt example of people's intolerance of differences. Its graphic language is meant to confront us and thus make us realize that without this fear, there would be no cause to single out people's differences and be able to point a finger at the enemy.

Psychological walls of fear and misconception are our true enemies. There is no other force so great that separates each of us from another than ignorance and fear. "We have met the enemy and he is us." The enemy is not any one individual act. The enemy is the prejudice born of fear and the words which we use to describe this fear; queer, coon, Jew. In the words of Pink Floyd, the only way to defeat this enemy is to, "tear down the wall, tear down the wall!" n

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
yesterday at 9:32 pm
i love this so much!
Angela k779 said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Thank you for writing this it is so true. When I was reading this I was so reminded of the World War 2 and slavery. How just because people are diffrent their bad but their not and thank you for writing this it means so much 2 me and many others
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