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Borders

October 10, 2011

Peter Hitchens gets it:

I like frontiers much as other people like restaurants, whisky, or dancing. The very word sings to me of those thrilling things — barbed wire, floodlights, grimy booths paneled in fake veneer, stone-faced officials, women in pert uniforms, the feeling of danger without the reality of it, the waiting train to some enjoyably grim city, hissing on the far side of the inviting barrier.

More reasons for looking forward to a peripheral EU breakup. I’ll never forgive the bastards for dismantling the Bajansenye checkpoint. That corrugated metal shack, rickety but menacing, stuffed to the gills with bored young thugs who smelled of piss and liquor — it was a god damned work of art.

There’s something magical about the places where the imaginary lines drawn by politicians and generals snap into existence, as if with a faint crackle and a whiff of ozone. Where the territory becomes the map and the maps become deadly. Everything takes on an unnatural clarity, a product not just of the harsh fluorescent lighting, but written onto the scene by minds well trained to snap to attention.

They are the opposite of all that is organic, human, blurry, heuristic, and traditional. The apotheosis of all that is legible, precise, unyielding, and false. Evil in a certain way, but oh so lovely. And they were honest. Now, when borders die, they are smashed in the name of totalizing uniformity — hardly an improvement. The border, at least, made no pretension to universality or or to tolerance.

One left one’s sins behind when crossing one too, at least in an earthly sense and provided they were not too great. The same border that walled lover off from beloved and kept striver away from opportunity was also an obstacle to pursuers, a checkpoint that removed the possibility of gaol once reached. This was, if we are to be fully honest with ourselves, a large part of the exquisite feeling of lightness we felt once the border was crossed and a new land lay open to us; not just the thrill of beckoning adventure, but also the relief that the thousand small sins (and the one or two medium ones) would haunt us no more, at least in this life.

Ah cheer up love, the globalizers may huff and then puff, but we will always have Serbia, Israel, Pakistan, both Koreas, and plucky little Burma.

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