Monday, October 31, 2005

Outsiders, Indeed

I had a chuckle this morning when I read a story on the Washington Post web site about a group of modern-day "Minutemen" patrolling the US-Canada border in northern Vermont.

The article -- On Patrol in Vt., Minutemen Are the Outsiders (registration required, I'm afraid) -- details the story of a group of folks from Massachusetts who have taken to watching the northern border in the same way that a group of what appear to be vigilantes has begun "guarding" the US-Mexico border in Arizona.

It was amusing to read that they are not sure exactly where the border is, that they have at least once mistakenly wandered into Canada, and that they were reduced to sitting in lawn chairs and watching a field.

What struck me most, though, is how they are missing the fact that the real citizen guards on the northern border are the people who live on that border. Families and friendships in that region straddle the border. The local folks may at times treat the border as their own private passageway, but they also make sure that it is only locals who may pass.

We spend time in northern Vermont each year. I've gotten to know a few farmers and landowners on the border. They have ways of moving things across the border but they also know who and what should move across the border. If anyone not in the community tries to get across, they'll sound the alarm. They know how to contact the federal authorities. And there is no other group that knows the whole of that border as well as the people who live there.

I understand, of course, that the "Minutemen" are just trying to make a point about what they see as a failure of the federal government to secure the borders. But they are insulting the people who live there and who already take their stewardship of their border very seriously. And, to me, the Minutemen look silly.

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