An artist built seesaws into the US-Mexico border and invited kids to play on them

James Baldwin said, "The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers."

What an apt description of a new art installation at the southern border.

A set of bright pink teeter-totters extend into both the U.S. and Mexico through the barrier between the two countries. Children and adults on both sides of the border can play together, seesawing up and down, their view of one another partially obscured by the vertical steel slats that separate them.



RELATED: Over two dozen scientists have proposed a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that we should start building right now

Ronald Rael, professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, associate professor of design at San José State University, came up with the conceptual drawings for the "Teetertotter Wall" in 2009. With the help of others, the two professors created the scene this week near El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and shared images and video of it on Instagram.

"The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations," Real wrote on Instagram, "and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side."

Raell said the event was "filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness."

The images are beautiful and uplifting, yet heartbreaking and tragic at the same time.

The current administration's answers to immigration questions are to build a bigger wall, to severely limit people's claim to asylum, to stoke the fires of fear and prejudice about immigrants from certain ethnicities, and to deter migration with inhumane detention practices.

RELATED: An actual engineer explains why the wall is 'a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen'

This art installation brings to the surface the deep questions those answers hide.

What is the difference between the children on this side of the wall and the children on the other side?

Does the geography of our birth really determine whether or not we deserve safety and freedom?

How do children playing together—as they do universally—become adults who make desperate journeys, adults who create unjust policies, adults who forget their humanity and steal people's babies from their arms?

Will history view this wall as it does most other walls built throughout history—as relics of a less evolved past when humans insisted on dividing themselves into artificial groups and factions?

Turning the much-debated border wall into a playground, even temporarily, reminds us of the axiom that children are children are children. It reminds us that no matter how complex we think immigration issues are, we cannot ignore the simple truth that we are all human beings.


NASA

When we look at our planet from space, we see no borders. That doesn't mean that borders don't or should never exist in any way, but it does mean that those separations are completely man-made and malleable. Here on the ground, it's easy to forget that. It's easy to start thinking of "us" and "them" as if those lines on a map are of greater importance than our shared humanity.

Watching innocent children play is a good reminder that nothing trumps the fact that we are all human beings, all deserving of the same basic human rights, regardless of what side of a border we come from.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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