July 18, 2010

The Great Stitch-Up

I’ve been on the road again. After ten hours on a bus between Montreal and Boston, it’s all I can do to persuade the blood to move around my body. At dear Hilton’s prompting, and thanks to Mrs. VB’s mother, who popped a late nineteenth-century pocket edition into my hands the other day, I’m reading Sartor Resartus this week, in gaps between more sober eye work. It has long been something of an oversight of mine not to have indulged in this great literary stitch up. Already at the forefront of my mind is the choice question: ‘A man that devotes his life to learning, shall he not be learned?’ Carlyle aside, I’m planning to make hay in the library this week.

The subject of this entry, however, is not so much the warp and woof of Carlyle’s rhetorical entanglements as it is another great knot in the smooth course of freedom. You will no doubt remember all the fuss about Arizona’s new immigration law a while back, the tenor of which might lead you to believe that Arizona is something of a desert island, and now a pariah to boot. Liberal New England tut-tutted in shame, no doubt. It would surely grow louder if they found out that such things were close to home.

The bus ride from Montreal is actually a beautiful thing, for the most part. Descending the length of Vermont in any season is to be recommended. The fly in the ointment is the border, of course, but despite a full bus containing passengers from around the world, today’s crossing ran smoothly. All those who needed visas had them; all those who needed to answer questions answered them. Fifty people were stamped up and packed off in thirty minutes. Those border guys do a great job. No one could question their thoroughness, or their seriousness. Yet, in Vermont at least, they do it with a lot of humility and a sense of humour. They also speak French – a rare quality for your average American. Two hours later, we arrived in White River Junction, Vt., where the bus terminated, and most of us boarded a new bus, along with some newcomers.

At this stage, two plain-clothes police officers – no, two shabbily dressed teenagers with badges – alighted and made their way down the bus, demanding declarations of citizenship, taking away passports, and interrogating everyone on the bus. Having found someone who looked suitably foreign, they confiscated his identification and started making telephone calls. While teenager number one carried this out, teenager number two stood at the front of the bus chatting with the driver in full earshot of us nearby passengers: you can never be sure of the Chinese, apparently; his ID could easily be fraudulent, since so many of them were; it was difficult to catch their organised crime rings, what with them being so shifty, but it’s always best to check. All of this, apart from being offensive and unnecessary, was, so far as I can tell, illegal. There is surely no requirement that ticket holders for domestic bus routes should carry proof of citizenship, and I doubt the legitimacy of the police officers’ demands to produce it, as well as their unwarranted admittance to the bus. The dubious alien, shockingly, turned out to be perfectly legitimate. Shortly, the boys’ supervisor arrived (equally shabby) and asked the driver where this bus had come from. In perfect honesty, she replied, ‘it hasn’t left yet’.

Nobody gains by such nonsense. A stitch in time saves nine, so they say. The international border is that stitch. The other nine were clearly superfluous, not to mention in poor taste.


  1. Your best post in a while: I like your first hand accounts best

  2. Well, doctor, good luck with the international borders. As far as I know of the European situation, the Americans are lucky. But I don't know that it will last.

    The American president recently invited the Mexican president - with due allowance for the UN opinion of what makes a nation - to bash Arizona from the White House.

    One wonders what will come of this, but the relevant authorities in America - ICE, DOJ - have suggested they will not take notice of Arizona or if they do they have done so in order to sue.

    That was after all of the relevant people declared themselves against the law and then admitted not to have read it.

    And yet, all the 10-page law does is bring state laws up to the standards of federal law... How's about leaving people to their patchwork stitching - never mind how many years ago somebody ought to have done something?


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