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Borders, limina and unity

[ by Charles Cameron — bulldozers and trains, more ]

Watersheds are natural divisions of landmasses, long predating human presence upon the earth. Borders by contrast are a human invention — a fact that is nowhere more evident than in the borders known as the Durand Line, separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of influence. Durand, Sykes and Picot were respectively British, British and French gentlemen. In fact, make that a DoubleQuote (mini):

And while Pakistan recognizes the Durand line as an international border, Afghanistan does not. ISIS, disliked the Sykes-Picot line dividing Iraq and Syria enough to bulldoze it (upper panel, below)..

And then there’s the Haskell Free Library and Opera House (lower panel, above)..


The Haskell Library straddles the US-Canadian border, and has served as a meeting place for Iranians in the US and their relatives, hoping to visit them from the Canadian side..

The library is a relic of a time when Americans and Canadians, residents say, could cross the border with simply a nod and a wave at border agents. It was the gift of a local family in the early 1900s to serve the nearby Canadian and American communities.

“What we are so proud of is that we do have a library that is accessed by one single door,” said Susan Granfors, a former library board member. “You don’t need your passport. You park on your side, I’ll park on my side, but we’re all going to walk in the same door.”

But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the northern border hardened, and the law enforcement presence in the area is immediately visible. And in September, a Canadian man was sentenced to 51 months in prison for smuggling more than 100 guns into Canada, some of them through the Haskell library.

Still, inside the building itself — decorated with wood paneling, stained-glass windows and, on the Canadian side, a moose head — the old ways mostly prevail. Patrons and staff freely cross the international boundary, marked with a thin, flaking black line extending across the brightly decorated children’s reading room and the main hallway.

The Library — and Opera House!! — then, erases a border more or less, in a friendly manner, while ISIS erasesd another with force. In bith cases, we can sense a distrust of or distaste for artificial separations.


Those who are willing to make creative leaps from political geography to the wisdom of the far Orient will recognize the imagery of Pu, the Uncarved Block in Lao Tze‘s Tao Te Ching — representing wood in its natural, uncarved state, end thus the whole, of which all entities are seeming parts, separated only by naming.

G Spencer Brown addresses the same distinction in his book, The Laws of Form — described appropriately enough by Wikipedia as “straddles the boundary between mathematics and philosophy” — between what Brown terms the Unmarked state, “which is simply nothing, the void, or the un-expressable infinite represented by a blank space.. No distinction has been made”, and the Marked State, in which one or more distinctions (Marks) have been made:

In Spencer-Brown’s inimitable and enigmatic fashion, the Mark symbolizes the root of cognition, i.e., the dualistic Mark indicates the capability of differentiating a “this” from “everything else but this.”

Spencer Brown notes that a Mark denotes the drawing of a “distinction”, and can be thought of as signifying the following, all at once:

  • The act of drawing a boundary around something, thus separating it from everything else;
  • That which becomes distinct from everything by drawing the boundary;
  • Crossing from one side of the boundary to the other.
  • .
    All three ways imply an action on the part of the cognitive entity (e.g., person) making the distinction.

    Brown notes, wryly perhaps

    As LoF puts it:

    “The first command:

  • Draw a distinction
  • can well be expressed in such ways as:

  • Let there be a distinction,
  • Find a distinction,See a distinction,
  • Describe a distinction,
  • Define a distinction,<
  • Or:

  • Let a distinction be drawn.”
  • **

    My own DoubleQuotes format both draws distinctions (being binary) and erases them by asserting parallelisms between them (unifying or uncarving, unmarking them).

    All Spencer Brown quotes above are via Wikipedia.


    Okay, now there’s news of another diplomatically significant border crossing:

    That’s good — and it gives us yet another DQ:

    Connecting a prosperous free South with a totalitarian North across a border is a liminal matter, and thus inherently sacred — see my post, Liminality II: the serious part

    As we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, it is possible and maybe Trump and Pompeo — with a little help from Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in? — can pull it off.

    Or maybe, Dennis Rodman?


    Sources, some of ’em:

  • The Guardian, Railway diplomacy
  • PRI, For some Iranian families separated by the travel ban
  • NYRB, The Map ISIS Hates — hey, this by Malise Ruthven
  • Asia Times, Afghanistan takes center stage
  • **

    Oh, ah, another couple of parallelisms, btw:


    What’s the cyber border between the US and Russia?

    7 Responses to “Borders, limina and unity”

    1. Charles Cameron Says:

      Transboundary crisis:

      Introducing TransCrisis video

      See also:

      Transboundary crisis management in the European Union: the accountability challenge.

    2. Charles Cameron Says:

      Another border matter..

      The literature on the vicissitudes of Trump’s border wall is vast.,.

    3. Charles Cameron Says:

      Alex Ross, Notable Performances and Recordings of 2018:

      At the beginning of the year, I crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Tijuana—where thousands of asylum seekers are now encamped—to witness a performance of John Luther Adams’s “Inuksuit,” for mass percussion. Steven Schick and the San Diego Symphony organized a cross-border, multinational ensemble, obtaining last-minute permission from the U.S. Border Patrol. For a mind-bending hour or so, the border disappeared. Read more.

    4. Charles Cameron Says:

      Trump’s Reality Show in the Oval Office

      Reporters were stunned as the president invited them to witness talks over something as tenuous as a partial government shutdown. What unfolded before them was a series of interruptions, schoolyard jabs, and cross talk over topics that spanned well beyond appropriations bills. In other words, Trump got his show. But he got no deal.

    5. Charles Cameron Says:

      Five Things to Know About Brexit Deal’s Irish Border Issue

      The EU has insisted on the backstop as an insurance policy in case long-term
      relations between the EU and U.K. would otherwise require Irish border controls.
      The insurance policy does two things: First, it would keep Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods and farm products, eliminating the need for any checks to ensure they meet EU standards. Second, the U.K. would stay inside the EU’s customs territory until other ways are found to avoid a border.

    6. Charles Cameron Says:


      Sabrina Hallman’s seed business has operated out of warehouses a short drive from the U.S.-Mexico border since 1989. The Sierra Seed Co., which sells to commercial growers in Mexico, is well-known in her small Arizona town—as is Hallman, a former school principal who took over from her father as chief executive officer in 2007.
      Three years later her bank was acquired, and its new owners cut off a line of credit her business had depended on for years. The decision was so unusual at the time that it even took Hallman’s local branch by surprise. They advocated to their new bosses on her behalf. “They said, ‘You don’t understand, we know this company. It’s solid,’?” she recalls. But their good word wasn’t enough. The company did business on both sides of the border and therefore posed a money laundering risk the bank wasn’t willing to take. Rather than spend resources vetting and monitoring what it perceived to be a high-risk account—or face enormous fines for failing to do so—Hallman’s company had to go.

    7. Charles Cameron Says:

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