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Review of the book Borderlands by Derek Lundy

Posted by John Reed on

Copyright 2013 John T. Reed

During my recent exploration of the Canadian border around the Vancouver-Bellingham area, I learned of a number of books about that border. I have been reading them one-by-one. I recently wrote about Point Roberts, USA (http://www.johntreed.net/northwest-washington-state-towns-as-hyperinflation-refuges.html) and The Border (http://www.johntreed.net/predicting-Canadian-border-situation-during-US-hyperinflation.html). This article is about the book Borderlands.

Biker

Author Lundy rode along the Mexican and Canadian borders with the continental U.S. on a motorcycle.

I have never read a book by a motorcycle person. I have always thought riding a motor cycle on roads with four-wheeled vehicles was so stupid as to be suicidal and that the people who did it must need to have their heads examined.

Now, having read this book by a motorcycle guy about his riding, I conclude I had all that exactly right.

So you will need to ignore all the motorcycle stuff—which unfortunately may be half the book. It is far more than you ever wanted to know about the minute details of weather, road surfaces, motorcycle repair, riding while very sick, riding while very injured, almost getting killed by the bike or the road or the weather or other vehicles, being disliked by bystanders, being befriended by fellow bikers, and the Zen of motorcycle riding. There is much talk about three friends of his who had died. He said he did the ride for them.

Uh huh. I’m sure they are very grateful.

Lundy spends much of the book riding in rain, sleet, or snow—soaking wet and freezing and wishing he were warm and dry.

Yeah, Derek. We call that having enough sense to get in out of the rain. All those 4-wheeled vehicles around you? They contain people who are warm and dry. But I’m guessing you are not interested in hearing that so let’s move on.

I said about the book The Border that I feared it would be a travelogue. Its author James Laxer also traveled along the border, using cars, ferries, and a cruise ship (in Alaska). He did not have much to say about his modes of transit—thankfully. Lundy can hardly talk about anything else.

And unfortunately, much of what Lundy says when he is not talking about his bike relates to travelogue type stuff that may be unique to him because of his use of a bike—being jerked around by border guards, for example.

Immigrant to Canada himself

Mr. Lundy is a Northern Irish protestant immigrant to Canada. Like Laxer, he has what most Americans would regard as a strange, anti-American view of the US.

I skipped reading most of the book because it was about the Mexican border. Since I am looking for foreign countries plural to serve as refuges from impending U.S. hyperinflation, in theory, I might be interested in Mexico. It is just as close to the US as Canada. But I did not need to consider Mexico for ten seconds. It is a disaster. Lundy was not able to figure that out until he rode along the Mexican border on his bike, an extremely dangerous and stupid thing to do.

Once you eliminate the Mexican and bike stuff, the book is relatively thin soup for my purposes.

‘We are not Americans!’

Lundy notes what I and others also have: the efforts Canadians often go to to tell everyone they are not Americans. But he says Europeans and Asians regard Americans and Canadians as indistinguishable and Latin Americans regard both as gringos. I would add that Americans regard Canadians as indistinguishable as well, which displeases Canadians greatly. I—we—shrug our shoulders. If Canadians are that eager to be the un-Americans, they are going to have to work harder at it. Proclaiming alone does not get it done.

Page 253: The border with the United States has always been of the utmost importance to Canadians. It is essential to our identity as “not-Americans.”

Repeating what I say every time I encounter this nuttiness, save it for discussions with your psychiatrist. Americans have zero interest in this loose screw.

Canadians know much and care a lot about Americans. Americans know and care little about Canada.

Again, I shrug. I am very interested in the hyperinflation refuge aspects of Canada. Actually, that would be one area where being “not-America” is actually the whole ball of wax. Otherwise, we Americans view Canadians as sort of upper Michiganders with a more extensive government health plan. And we know and care little about upper Michiganders.

9/11 big deal to Canadians

As with Laxer, Lundy says 9/11 greatly changed the border. Actually, if I recall correctly, they announced you needed to use your passport to cross the border before 9/11. I only crossed the border once before 9/11, and that was back in 1975. It was a non-event.

Now it is reminiscent of Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin which I crossed in 1967. It’s not that bad, but it is actually closer to Checkpoint Charlie than to the Canadian border of 1975. But Lundy and Laxer discus this in ominous tones. I got none of that in June and July when I was up there. And the Canadian border guards are about as big a pain, when they are a pain, as the US border guards.

Both Laxer and Lundy say the Canadian border guard are great guys and the U.S. guards are the bad guys. Maybe if you have a Canadian passport, which is easier to get than a U.S. passport and thereby results in greater illegal entry going south into the US than going north into Canada. A lot of people seek to get into Canada in order to then get into the US illegally. With increased unhappiness about Latino illegal immigrants in the US, Canada’s also facilitating illegal entry into the US—by everyone other than Latinos, is unwelcome. And that became appropriately more of an issue after 9/11 and the guy who was arrested coming from Canada with explosives to blow up LAX.

Anyway, the Canadians, or many of them, are upset about greater restrictions on crossing the Canadian border since 9/11. I don’t care for it either, but neither do I wring my hands about it and whine about it. Canada wants to have more lax immigration policies. So be it. If they would unify their polices with ours, and effectively enforce them at least as much as we do, the Canadian border would go back to being a no-sweat crossing.

Nexus card

I rejected getting a Nexus card while in Canada recently. Too much trouble. I may go ahead and apply for one now because of my various readings about the border. I think the long-term trend is that the border will be open for Americans and Canadians, but after all my reading, I can easily foresee situations where it might be closed for hours, days, or weeks at a time and/or where tariffs might be greatly increased or cross-border shopping trips banned. Along that spectrum, there is a patch where having a Nexus card could be extremely important in terms of the value of your time.

Lundy correctly says that the difficulties for Canadians crossing the border at present are directly related to their insistence on handing out lots of asylum residence permits and other lax immigration policies and enforcement. The strictness along the border is about nothing but the differences between Canadian and US immigration policies. Eliminate the differences and you eliminate the difficulty.

Tariffs

The border is also about tariffs and such. That is another issue. Hyperinflation in the U.S. could result in changes in the economics of crossing the border. Hyperinflation in the US would cause a huge contraction here and, as a result, also in Canada. Furthermore, the Canadian dollar (CAD) retaining its purchasing power when the USD loses its, will cause massive numbers of Canadians to want to go south of the border to shop. I expect Canadian businesses will demand that be stopped by laws and tighter rules about what you can bring back.

Rich people in the US would want to go to Canada to shop during the hyperinflation because they will not be allowed to have foreign currency in their own country and the stores will be empty to Americans shopping with US dollars while simultaneously welcoming Canadians who have and are allowed to shop with CAD. I will not be surprised if one or both countries tries to legislate a reduction in the cross-border shopping during the US hyperinflation. That could kill my notion that merely moving to the Canadian border and living on the US side during hyperinflation would be enough because you could go shopping in Canada. If you can, it would. But if you are prevented from doing that, and there is not a better black market near the border, you might as well be in Kansas.

See the Revolutionary War as a Civil War

The Canadians are very big on the Revolutionary War—on which their perspective is somewhat like that of the Americans who live in the former Confederacy. Many Canadians regard our war for independence as a civil war. Canada was British. 13 colonies seceded from British rule. The main difference is in the civil war between the Brits, which includes Canadians, and the Americans, the South won. They are still a bit pissed off about it.

War of 1812

They are also really pissed about the War of 1812 which they say we started and which they regard as a big heroic deal in which brave Canadians frequently repelled the American invaders.

I know I speak for most Americans when I say, “Huh?”

Most Americans cannot even tell you what year the War of 1812 took place. Those that do would say something like, we went to war because the Brits kept kidnapping our sailors to serve in Brit navy ships in their war against Napoleon. The Brits invaded DC and burned the Capitol and the White House. And Andrew Jackson kicked their asses in the Battle of New Orleans, which actually was fought after the peace treaty had been signed in Europe.

Apparently, there were some raids by American military across the Canadian border during that war, and vice versa. The U.S. has little noted nor long remembered what happened on that border during the War of 1812. To the Canadians, it appears to be a big part of their national pride.

Ooookay. The War of 1812 you say?

Treatment of the Indians

Another big deal apparently with the Canadians is the notion that we Americans mercilessly slaughtered the Indians but the Canadians were nice to them. Indeed, Northern US Indians used to engage in various, shall we say, anti-social activities back in the day, then run into Canada when our cavalry chased after them.

I will not get into the details of all that. One point is that during that time, the US had a very large population compared to Canada. Another is Brits and the French in Canada allied with Indians against Americans before the Revolution.

I propose to use the tax law doctrine of step transaction to draw a conclusion here. The step-transaction doctrine says the law is not distracted by interim steps, but just looks at where everyone began and where they ended.

With regard to our Revolution, the US was a British colony before 1776 and is now an independent country. Canada was a British colony before 1776 and is now an independent country. Canadians point to the differences in the interim steps and extol them as their more virtuous national identity. Americans could point to the start and end points and the date of Canadian independence (1982) and dismiss the Canadians as awfully slow learners and/or slow actors.

Similarly, with Indians, they roamed all of North America as stone-age, hunter-gatherers with a few crop-raising tribes when the white men arrived. Now they live in reservations in each country, run casinos, and are generally very poor and having trouble with alcoholism. Canadians condemn the higher Indian body count in America and vive la différence between Canadians and Americans on that score. But the Brits in Canada also killed Indians, as they did in another British country I visited recently: Australia. If you did a per-capita analysis of Indians killed by whites, whites killed by Indians in terms of the populations of Indians and whites in each country, I doubt you would find that Canadians of the time were 200 years ahead of their American cousins in terms of politically-correct treatment of what are now called Native Americans in the US and First Nation in Canada.

My sense reading casually about the treatment of Indians in the two countries back in the 1800s was that Canada was essentially unpopulated whereas Americans were tearing west with a vengeance below the 49th parallel. Were the Canadians more humane—or just outnumbered? And Lundy quotes a Canadian journalist of the 1800s saying of the Indians:

That a lot of dirty, thieving, lazy ruffians should be allowed to go where they will, carrying the latest improved weapons, when there is no game in the country, seems absurd.

I agree with the now-retroactively, politically-incorrect, Canadian journalist.

He also condemns our killing off of the Indian horse culture. Uh, Derek, the Indians had zero horses in all of the western hemisphere until the white man brought them from Europe. In fact, it appears the North American Indians never developed any type of domesticated animals—like cows, sheep, or chickens.

Just be aware of these notions

I really do not want to debate the matter. I just want to warn my fellow Americans that many Canadians think we seceded from their country, then invaded it in 1812, then murdered Indians while they were nice to them, that we were extremely expansionist and the Canadians are lucky we did not seize their country, and that we are gun nuts and overly belligerent around the world as evidenced by Vietnam and Iraq. They see our concept of manifest destiny as meaning we wanted to take over all of North America and Central America. I always thought manifest destiny meant we expanded west. The current map of the US seems to bear me out. But the Canadians think we were trying to take over their part of North American and were somehow stopped. I don’t recall reading about that and I wonder who the hell could have stopped us if that was our goal—either in Mexico or Canada?

Trade exclaves

Lundy thinks the two countries should trade Campobello Island for Point Roberts. I agree. That would save both countries and the residents of those two areas a lot of money and hassle. For one thing, the border crossing stations could be closed. Campobello is bigger, so we would have to throw is some draft dodgers and deserters to be named later to make the trade.

Passport expense

Lundy makes a point I had not considered. Passports cost money. If I read the Internet correctly, the fees are adult first time book and card, $165 (maybe plus cost of photos); adult renewal, $140; minor (under 16), $120. To our affluent family, that is a non-issue. But to people who are less affluent and live near the border—maybe with relatives on the other side of the border—it is a substantial expense and hindrance to routine local travel. I guess it would be.

Reader Jackie DeLister informs me there is a passport card, not book, that can be used only for Canada and Mexico and only for land or water travel, not air, that is cheaper than a passport. See http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html.

The Nine Nations of North America

Lundy cites the 1981 book The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau. It divided North America into nine regions that Garreau said were internally consistent and that his borders were more appropriate than the national Mexico and Canadian borders. One of his nations was Mexamerica which, as it sounds, spans the border. Five of Garreau’s nine nations span the Canadian border; only French-speaking Quebec is solely within the borders of Canada. Only one—Dixie—is entirely within the US border.

Garreau is basically saying that the Canadians in Vancouver and Victoria bear more resemblance to the people of coastal Washington, Oregon, and California above Santa Barbara (Ectopia) than to their fellow Canadians. He says the same thing about the people in our sparsely populated western states and Alaska, Alberta, Manitoba, and most of upper Canada (Empty Quarter), the Kansas City Midwest and the populated areas above it in Canada (Breadbasket), the Rust Belt Midwest and the populated Canadian areas immediately north of it (Foundry), and New England and the non-French-speaking area north of it (New England).

Garreau is basically saying that the only part of Canada that is not American is French-speaking Quebec. This goes against the “We’re not American! We’re not American!” protestations of English-speaking Canadians.

Joel Garreau, it must be noted, is an American with no significant time spent in Canada. But I agree with Lundy that what Garreau said is noteworthy. It supports the American notion that Canadians are essentially Americans. Note that Garreau credits Canadians with having six distinct identities—five of which match those of their across-the-border Americans. The non-Quebec Canadians who claim not to be Americans talk a better game than they play. Identity is earned by actions, not just proclaimed. Actions speak louder than words.

‘The narcissism of small differences’

Lundy also quotes an intriguing pertinent statement by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Freud used the phrase the “narcissism of small differences.” Lundy says Freud defined that as “the notion that we direct our most negative emotions—aggression, fear, hatred—against those who most resemble us, and we emphasize the small differences that distinguish us from them.” Sounds like it describes the “we’re not American” English-speaking Canadians.

Climate and terrain

The climate and terrain of Canada also militate against the notion that Canadians are not Americans. Cold temperatures and rugged, non-arable or frozen terrain force the Canadians down onto or near the US border. Some very high percentage of Canadians live within a short distance of the US. In July, 2013 I explored the borderland near Canada in Washington state. In a sense, almost all of the Canadian population lives in Canadian counterparts of that northern Washington state border area. The US has a narrow border strip on the borders with Canada and Mexico, but most of America is not there. In contrast, most Canadians are within their borderlands. The non-borderlands in Canada are essentially unpopulated.

The normal geographic map of Canada is extremely misleading. Here is a population-density map of Canada. What is says is that some Canadians live in Victoria-Vancouver, and some on the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario and north of New York state (Ottawa), NH, and VT (Montreal). Except for some cities like Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, the rest of Canada has a population density of less than 10 person per square kilometer. Canada is not that huge country you see on the map, it is a handful of metro areas right on, or within 60 miles of, the border.

North-south versus east-west

Lundy points out the that the border runs east-west, but the terrain mostly runs north-south. By terrain he means the oceans, the Rocky Mountains, Lakes Winnipeg and Michigan, and the St. Lawrence River. The only east-west natural borders are Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.

America built its transcontinental railroad, the world’s first, between 1863 and 1869. Why? Because Americans were pouring into California and the rest of the West by sea around Cape Horn and by wagon trains.

Canada also built a transcontinental railroad—the Canadian Pacific—but not until 1881 to 1885. Why? Because they were having trouble getting Canadians to populate the parts of Canada wost of Lake Superior. They were scared that the Americans were going to fill in their country all the way to the Pacific, then turn north and asked to be annexed. Also, when trying to get British Columbia to join Canada, they had to promise to build the railroad.

Gold rushes

There were gold rushes that accelerated the immigration:

California 1849
British Columbia, Canada 1850
Pike’s Peak, Colorado 1859
Klondike, Canada 1896

And others.

Essentially, the Canadian government built an east-west artificial terrain feature—the Canadian Pacific Railroad—as a way to populate the still relatively unpopulated parts of Canada between Bonfield, Ontario (north of Toronto‚ and Vancouver.

Again, I cannot eliminate this or persuade Canadians to stop feeling this way. Here, I mainly warn you that it is part of the mix when deciding whether to rely on Canada as a refuge or shopping destination during US hyperinflation.

Lundy saw the election of Obama as “Change Canadians can believe in” (my phrase, not his) to make America the better place Canadians wish it would be.

Aaagh!

Lundy says the border guards google you if they think you have a presence on line.

Here’s another genius insight into the psyche of us Americans from the Northern Ireland Canadian.

Americans have long moved north for political reasons: to get away from what they see as a distastefully polarized and violent society…

Do tell. Actually, I think you are over-expanding the 60,000 Americans who dodged the draft or deserted from the US military during the Vietnam war. I did a tour in the Army in Vietnam. Do you think maybe some of those who deserted to Canada did not want to get their hair cut short, or spend a year living in a jungle 10,000 miles from their family and friends and McDonalds and their girlfriend, or have to do what high school dropout sergeants yelled at them to do?

How many actually went up there last year to “get away from what they see as a distastefully polarized and violent society…?”

I tried to Google that but could not find it. I expect the number of US citizens who migrated to Canada minus the number of Canadian citizens who migrated from Canada to the US in 2012 is either zero or a negative number. Mark Steyn is one who left Canada for America—because he almost got prosecuted for what in the US would be permissible free speech. He only moved to NH so I guess it wasn’t for the weather.

‘Isolationism?’

Lundy also says since 9/11 we are falling back on our “old habits of isolationism.” WTF? We have traded with more countries around the world than anyone else forever and we have fought wars in more countries than almost any other country with the possible exception of the U.K. We are number 2 in the world after China in exports and number 1 in imports. There is probably no country that is more engaged with the world or even close to the US in that category from Coca Cola to our movies and TV to the Peace Corps to military alliances and foreign bases and tourism. In contrast, Canada has been a high-tariff, protectionist country for most of its existence.

Again, I cannot change this. I can only warn you that many Canadians have these nutty thoughts. and at some point, it could cause restrictions on your ability to use Canada as a refuge or shopping destination.


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