Monday, February 1, 2016

Speaking of Borders

Listening to Donald Trump one would think we are under siege. In fact the U.S. has one of the safest most peaceful neighbors on the map. Canada is not invading Alaska nor Mexico massing troops in Tijuana. The only threat we face from the north is the prospect of that Canadian export, Ted Cruz. Two oceans have insulated us from European squabbles and Asian adventures except for Pearl Harbor almost twenty-five hundred miles away from our continental shores.

Contrast this with China, fourteen countries nibbling at its sprawling flank or more likely China doing the nibbling.  India and Pakistan still have a disputed border after more than 65 years. And then there is Israel, nibble, nibble.

In the aftermath of World War I the winners carved the Turkish Empire with all the relish of a Thanksgiving dinner, the bones of which are still piling up today. It kept cartographers working through the night with a full palette of ink. Borders divide people artificially. Erasure would eliminate a lot of perpendiculars.

There was a time when Virginia extended up to the Canadian border. Since 1790 it has shrunk and a handful of other states have been carved out. The Mason-Dixon Line was born out of a dispute between Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Why quibble? These sacrosanct borders were merely land grants issued by King George. It’s time we gave up states and settled for five or six regions. Is there really a difference between Kansas and Nebraska or the Dakotas?

Nationalism is a pandemic disease and xenophobia its virulent form. There is no moral justification for exclusion of migrants. Those of us dropped to earth here rather than there cannot hide behind the accident of birth. The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the free flow of people within borders. Why not extend that right beyond?

Open borders are a win-win. The free-flow of people would create a heterogeneous society which would, in theory at least, reduce the possibility of war. Economists say open borders would double Gross World Productivity. It has been estimated that a 1% bump in immigrant population into the labor force in the Western World would reduce global poverty as much as three times more than all foreign aid combined. Refugees also bring with them the benefits of a re-vitalized, innovative charge to the economy. Who knows, we might even be able to export Donald Trump?

Someday, but not this week, we’ll realize we’re all here sharing this hunk of orbiting dust as temporary custodians with a renewable lease, providing we learn to behave. Let the oceans be our only borders. Nature abhors straight lines.

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