Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good fences make bad neighbours

Here's a story in tomorrow's NYT about how the US Border Patrol is about to reinforce a chain link fence in what is informally called "Friendship Park" and has allowed people on opposite sides of the border (between San Diego and Tijuana) to talk through the present fence. Now however, and just like the Communists did during the Cold War -- and egged on by the Lou Dobbs Army -- the government is building a second fence to put a stop to this, in effect creating a "no-man's land."

One can appreciate the need to stop smuggling of drugs as well as of humans. But how far does one go to achieve these goals? Furthermore, further afield where the border literally cuts through the middle of nowhere important nature migration pathways are being blocked off and the eco-system threatened.

How thoroughly unenlightened. Obviously, there are issues along the Canada-US border but for the most part the line is not impeded by such ridiculous encumbrances to allow nature to obey -- well, the call of nature and to permit normal good neighbour relations; although at official crossing points things are getting crazier and more bureaucratic.

And let's not forget western and central Europe most of which has abolished the borders between them altogether. It allows for open access with the odd random inspections, while at the same time creating and upholding unintended nature preserves along the lines where the former double fences existed. And twin cities which were once divided can now co-ordinate social and cultural activities as well as security arrangements meaning lower taxes and costs.

Which approach is better, for both the environment as well as just the policy of cordial relations? I'll let you decide. For me, good fences don't always make good neighbours -- they can actually ruin well-established familial and arms-length relationships. And there are smarter and more cost-effective ways of fighting illicit materials and illegal immigration than just building a wall. The situation along the southern border is not the same as, say, the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank (or more accurately well beyond the internationally accepted Green Line between the two).

Certainly, the wall won't solve the issue of what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the US.

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