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Northern Border

People are willing to wait as long as it takes rather than allow a $5 billion border wall in the south. (Photo: Lorraine Payette)

The time is 2:56 pm EST on December 22, 2018. Location – a bridge leading across the St. Lawrence River into the US from Canada. However, no one is actually getting into the US right now.

“We apologise - we are expecting approximately a two-hour delay due to the partial shutdown of the American government,” says a toll collector at the bridge. “Homeland Security is doing what they can with a severe reduction in available staff.”

Merry Christmas to all from Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, who in a recent announcement on live international television told the world he would shut his nation’s government down if he didn’t get his own way and receive a guarantee of $5 billion to build a border wall between the US and Mexico. It is probably one of his fondest wishes to believe that the people held up in these lines and others inconvenienced by this action will become angry enough to try to force others inside that country to give him what he wants.

We’ve dealt with discomfort and temper tantrums, assigned numerous time-outs and whatever spankings were due when nothing else worked. You can’t bully us.

Sorry, Sir, but no, we’re Canadians and ex-pats and a whole bunch of people who’ve taken rude, unruly children here in the “frozen north” and turned them into worthwhile human beings. We’ve dealt with discomfort and temper tantrums, assigned numerous time-outs and whatever spankings were due when nothing else worked. You can’t bully us.

At 3:10 pm the bridge suddenly opens up, and traffic starts moving forward. But that doesn’t really mean anything.

“We’re getting the pressure off of these lines,” says the collector. “We really can’t block the ramps on Canadian highways, and we can’t stop reasonable flow of traffic.”

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It takes less than 90 seconds to actually get Customs in sight. And what a sight. Perhaps some of it is due to late season holiday shopping, but we are more likely to believe in problems exacerbated by the shutdown. Lanes which usually see no more than ten cars backed up and traffic proceeding quickly and efficiently are now barely moving.

People start rolling down their windows to enter into conversation with those in other vehicles. Temperatures are reasonable – hovering around -2˚ C – and cold climate residents comment about how nice it is that the temperatures are reasonable, while more southerly visitors find it very uncomfortable indeed. They talk about the weather, they talk about the upcoming holiday, they talk about friends and family. They never mention the Trump Shutdown, the Border Wall, or anything even remotely related to politics.

By 3:52, final approach is achieved, and a young member of Homeland Security asks all the appropriate questions. The correct responses are given, but so are reassurances that we, the traveling public, understand that this problem was not created by these agents, that we sympathize and hope that they, too, will be able to spend the holiday at home with their friends, families and loved ones.

“I’m not getting paid today, but they forced me to stay here,” said one agent. “It’s been so busy – I’m exhausted. I just want to go home and forget about it all.”

Meanwhile, the cause of all of this is being forced to give up his annual family holiday at Mar-a-Lago, which he owns and makes the US taxpayer pick up the tab every time he goes there. He is no doubt feeling slighted and a bit miffed, perhaps even pouting as the government shutdown wasn’t supposed to inconvenience him, just everyone else. Instead, he’s spending his time in Washington trying to force an unwanted wall down the throats of a nation that’s still struggling to find a way to survive on inadequate wages, sub-standard jobs, and vastly overpriced health care.

The shutdown is not due to the Democrats. It is not due to the Republicans. It is due entirely to one man and his ridiculous notions. And, awkward as it may be for everyone else, it still isn’t going to get him his wall.

Merry Christmas, USA. We outside your borders feel for you. We send our “hopes and prayers”. But we also encourage you to stand firm. Say no to this man’s bigotry and intolerance. Border security is important, but you don’t need a wall to achieve it. Look north – our border is much longer and more wide open, yet we don’t have anywhere nearly the same problems and we certainly aren’t looking at building any walls. Perhaps it’s time to find out what it is that makes things work for all of us up here and apply it at the border down there.

Lorraine Payette