The Canadian Border

The text emphasizes a poem I hadn’t read before; that a dog doesn’t bark means something, even if we have good reason to cherish that dog’s protection. Of course, in a sense it is what we usually talk about: respect for others, tendency toward a “muddle on” pragmatism, and an essential respect for law, all of which we owe to a common heritage. But then, neither side has been suitably educated by UNWRA.

At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border

William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed — or were killed — on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

William Stafford

2 thoughts on “The Canadian Border”

  1. The US-Canadian border is a remarkable thing in history. John Keegan has a wonderful passage at the beginning of Fields of Battle pointing out that the Lake Champlain corridor was the route of five major invasions in the eighteenth and early nineteen centuries. There was no inherent reason why the rest of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries shouldn’t have seen five more invasions, this time with far more lethal weapons. In eastern Canada and the US east coast, you can still see in some places the massive fortifications built in the early nineteenth century in expectaton of another US-British war. Just as well that war never came, because a few decades later every one of the fortifications built in the American South were breached by the Union forces, most of them in only a few days. The point is, the US-Canadian border wasn’t disarmed by accident or random chance, nor was it predestined. As with the assimilation of the 19th century immigrants, it was the result of hard work on both sides, which set in process first a detente, and eventually an understanding, and finally a firm alliance with world-historical consequences. It is part of our patrimony handed down from previous generations.

    If people really want “peace education” they should teach the real story behind the US-Canada border.

  2. Thanks Jim Bennett. As usual, you bring a history lesson. And remind us that we often fail to credit, support and even understand the sense of duty and submersion of self that makes the trains run on time and our children grow up healthy and mature.

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