United States/Canada Border
In the 1970s, Gerald Bull, a Canadian aerospace engineer, developed howitzers and “supergun” technologies for foreign governments, using a tunnel beneath the Vermont/Quebec border to test his weapons. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments helped Bull set up his company, known as Space Research Corporation. Who would have guessed such a thing would be hidden in the Vermont woods? Preposterous–as were the events of 9/11. We live in preposterous times.
Even so, the problem seems almost metaphysical. We’re not at war with Canada, and yet the possibility exists that someone or something with evil intent could pass this friendly border. How much are we willing to spend to combat this possibility? How much commerce between two countries of goodwill are we willing to lose? Even with all this increased security, are we really any safer?
The dragnets I encountered in this region have caught some drug traffickers and illegal aliens, but no terrorists thus far, and it seems unlikely that they’ll catch any but the most ill-informed. The friendship between Canada and the U.S. that was once so abundant now seems an anachronism. Although hundreds of people are arrested each day on America’s southern border, the agents I spoke with admitted that little happens up here. But acting on the possibility that one day something big might happen, our government, already so in debt, is putting up massive structures and has hired what seems like an army to patrol this sleepy border.
During Prohibition, farmers and bootleggers managed to manufacture and distribute enough moonshine to keep a lot of people happy, in spite of the efforts of the revenuers. Prohibition was repealed largely owing to the realization that its enforcement had fostered a profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol. Much the same could be said about our current drug laws. Now, a long list of things, from illegal aliens to biological weapons, justifies these huge stations and all these agents of the law. And yet tractor-trailerloads of marijuana were shipped through these stations as recently as 15 years ago before the guilty parties were arrested. Whatever else passed through, we’ll never know. On the northern border, it would never be feasible to build fences like those the government is erecting on the southern border. It’s a border that will never be contained.
The war on terror is based in large part on fear and the workings of the imagination. From where I sit on the deck of that restaurant, I see two men loading their lobster boat, using a small crane attached to the end of the wharf. In darkness, their red navigation lights disappear into the night as they burble away from the wharf. With the watery International Boundary so close and the impressions of the Border Patrol fresh in my mind, I make up a scenario that includes contraband stashed in the hold. I imagine how easy that could be. But perhaps all they’re doing is going out to set traps for the lobster that so sweetly flavors the meal I’ve just devoured, every delectable pink chunk of it.
SLIDE SHOW: Edie Clark’s Canadian border photos.
See also YANKEE CLASSIC, January 1984: US/Canadian Border Crossings