the sad, unfriendly border

I neglected to mark a quietly momentous occasion. At long last, after years of delays and attempts to reconfigure them, the new travel restrictions between Canada and the US have gone into effect.

Beginning last Monday, June 1, people crossing the world's longest border now need either a passport or one of a few other approved documents.

I think this is sad, and completely useless. It obviously won't make us any safer, as there's no real danger in the first place. Despite persistent lies told by US officials, none of the September 11th hijackers entered the US through Canada. As usual, it all boils down to suspicion, innuendo and fear-mongering.

On the US side, that country may face the risk of terrorism within its own borders - Oklahoma City, anti-choice zealots, death threats against the new president - or from the hatred it sows by oppressing people all over the world. But Canada is not the problem.

On the Canadian side, this country faces the ongoing danger of its culture and identity being swallowed up by the US, but no border ID check has ever stopped that or ever will.

* * * *

For people who own passports, the new rules are not a big deal. But millions of Canadians and Americans don't have passports, and they're unlikely to spend time and money getting one for a brief trip over the border.

People who live in certain border provinces and states can apply for enhanced driver's licences or enhanced ID cards, an amendment hard-won by citizens who reasonably fear these useless rules will diminish their economies. But even that restriction may be onerous. It remains to be seen how many people will apply for those documents.

When Allan and I first met, he still lived in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. Sometimes we'd rent a car and drive up to Montreal for the day. One summer, traveling around New York State, we popped up to Montreal for what turned out to be one of the most memorable baseball games of our lives.

Longer ago, when I was growing up, my family went to Canada several times. On a vacation to Acadia National Park in Maine, we also visited the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. Several trips to New England and western New York State included stops into Canada. Growing up in New York, Canada was something both friendly and familiar, and different and a bit exotic. It was cool that we visit another country in just a short drive.

It seems very sad to have lost that. For so many people who depend on border traffic for their livelihoods, it's more than sad. And it's all so completely stupid.

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