At first, I was skeptical about a U.S. plan to build a wall along its border with Canada, at 6,400-kilometres, the world’s largest undefended border. A leaked draft report speculated that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency has proposed the use of barriers on the 49th parallel to manage “trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control.”
What a long and expensive route to fighting crime that would be. Generally speaking, if Americans want to keep a criminal from entering their country through Canada, then the solution is simple. Keep Conrad Black right where he is, in that prison in Miami. Seriously, we don’t want him back anyway.
News of the wall surfaced with an environmental impact study and I thought, “Nah, no way, they’re not going to build a surveillance fence along our border.”
But then, all of a sudden, the Customs and Border Protection Agency went public by stating on the record that a plan to build a fence along the border with Canada was “not actively under consideration.” And I thought yup, concrete and barbwire, floodlights and cameras – that wall is going up just as sure as George Dubya Bush attacked Iraq when Iran was the real enemy.
I mean it makes perfect sense if you’re American. Half the bridges in American are crumbling and need replacing. So, what do you do? Build a fence across your northern border.
When you’re down to your last good friend in the world, what do you do? Cut him off at the pass and keep any eye on him 24/7.
When 21 terrorists from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Morocco fly airplanes into New York City’s Trade Center, what do you do? Attack Iraq … and heighten security and surveillance at all Canadian border crossings.
When the dog bites you in the bum, what do you do? Kick the cat, of course.
Historically speaking, walls to ward off evil neighbours have never actually worked. In fact, instead of building walls, the Unites States might as well construct a great big roller coaster along the border because all such barriers – The Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, The Berlin Wall – eventually are reduced to curiosities and tourist attractions.
I wonder what a 49th parallel wall would look like. Like the Apartheid Wall Israel is building to control Palestinians – a 26-foot-high rampart with electric razor wire and sniper towers? Or more like the shiny, metallic beam and post-design America is constructing along their border with Mexico to keep out people who clean their toilets and pick their fruit. Americans think big so, quite likely, we’ll end up with a wall so huge Sarah Palin will be able to see it from her porch.
The best we can hope for is a wall low enough that Canadian geese can still fly south to American golf courses, but high enough that we don’t have to look at Detroit.
I hope it’s at least 50-feet high thereby providing the screens for several thousand drive-in theatres on our side of the wall. We will celebrate the completion of the wall with a war movie festival showing every war Americans lost. (I expect the Americans will use their side to advance the case of capital punishment. Look for a new reality TV show along the line of Cops. They’ll call it Wall Hangings.)
A big wall will simplify America’s Homeland Security search for potential terrorists planning attacks on U.S. soil. Now, instead of tracking Mideast nationals taking flying lessons in small U.S. airports, all they have to do is identify Muslim extremists in Canada who are currently taking up pole vaulting.
Good luck building a wall through the Halfway House Hotel, which straddles the border between Dundee, Quebec and Covington, New York. Please, do not erect this wall between the bar and the washrooms. That’s just asking for trouble.
And in their house in Estcourt Station, half in Quebec and half in Maine, do you think Ed wants to be tripping over razor wire when he goes to the beer fridge, or Elsie wants to be asked the value of her goods when she’s bringing up preserves from the basement? No, this U.S./Canada border fence is just a really bad idea.
Once known as the “friendliest border in the world” I think nice, polite Canadians could support a tidy, newly painted, two-foot-high picket fence. Anything else will be an insult to our cooperative attitude toward a neighbour who can sometimes be psychotic and “invasion happy.”
Americans might just this once listen to one of their own smart and peace-loving citizens, Ashley Brilliant, who is famous for saying: “Be a good neighbour and leave us alone.”
I am always surprised at what American governments consider a good idea. Canada remains a loyal friend to the behemoth to the south and we continue to believe that cooler heads containing actual brains will prevail.
As the saying goes, Americans will always do the right thing … after they try every other dumbass idea first. You just have to wait them out and, while doing so, try to keep a straight face.
Note: William Thomas’ book Guys: Not real bright–and damn proud of it! is not the biography of any sitting or recent president of the United States. www.williamthomas.ca
SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE MAY 2012
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