Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Borders

“‘The world has enough borders. I don’t want [them] any more,’ Malamine said.” I quote here from a recent article that appeared on the CNN website.[1] The sentiment is clear enough; the idea is that borders are essentially bad and in any case unnecessary. People should be allowed to move around at will, no one should be prevented from any movement at any time. The old American expression about freedom of speech, “I can say whatever I want; it’s a free country”—should be applicable to the world thus: “I can go wherever I want; it’s a free world.” Indeed, thus it has been argued in an important 2015 publication.[2]

The only problem with this modification of the dictum is that it is not a free world. Maybe it should be, but it is not. Just recently, according to the reliable news source, Reuters, “a Turkish prosecutor asked for NBA’s New York Knicks star Enes Kanter to be jailed for … insulting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan….”[3] Now if it were a free world, Mr. Kanter would be allowed to criticize whom he wanted, as many other NBA stars, even the NBA’s current brightest shining star, have done with regard to the American president.[4] He might have even have been allowed to say, “Tayyip, dude, that’s a funny first name.” But it is not a free world and, as a rule of thumb, one should never tease a dictator about his first name.

So I think we have established, thanks to Mr. Erdogan’s interesting first name, that it is most certainly not a free world, and that’s why, as unpopular as it might sound, we need borders. And are borders, anyhow, actually bad? If they were, why would anyone name a bookstore after them?  But seriously, let’s think about this for a moment. Without borders there would be no patriotism. Now is patriotism bad? A debate website (dubiously, perhaps) debates it,[5] and well-known Irish-Californian Christian preacher Philip De Courcy points up the dangers of unqualified nationalism using the example of the prophet Jonah in his very fine sermon series “Jonah: Man on the Run.”[6]

Yet even if, for the sake of argument, we were to grant that patriotism is somehow objectionable, that does not make borders “bad.” In the case of marriage, for example, most people would say, borders are good, as most marriages are not open marriages. Most marriages, therefore, have implicit, even explicit borders. And for all their openness and presumed easy-goingness, 92% of open marriages would seem to end up in divorce.[7] Now someone might argue that marriage is an outdated idea anyway. And that is fine, but caveat uxor: why even be married if you’re going to have an “open marriage”?

Well, I’ve rambled along far enough, probably transgressing a few borders, without which there would be no “South of the Border” restaurant, as there would be nothing to be “south of”.  Which brings me to my closing thought: the notion of transgression. The very idea of “trespassing” or “transgressing” or even robbing someone’s house or taking their property is owed, in some way, to the notion that there are borders or limits that should not be transgressed. And with that, I have reached my own limit, a border I shall not transgress by rambling on further, for perhaps the most rarified form of human happiness, anyhow, is found at home, with family—yes, within one’s own borders.









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