Integrity for Borders, and Borders for Integrity

A section of Hadrian's Wall. domain

A country without borders is no country at all. It is, rather – to paraphrase Metternich’s description of 19th century Italy – nothing more than a ‘geographical expression’; a swathe of land that anyone may enter at will is no nation at all.

But there is a deeper, metaphysical reality to borders, as there is to all things: The limits of a nation can only be defined by a moral cohesion that binds the people who dwell therein. If a household divided against itself cannot stand, what are we to say of whole countries?

Hence, the question put before the United States Supreme Court recently was, on its surface, who has the responsibility to maintain the integrity of the southern border of Texas, which has become so porous as to be almost non-existent, with millions crossing over, almost all unimpeded, unchecked, unverified? The Court’s decision that the border is a federal matter has forced Texans into a corner, for the feds have abrogated their responsibility, leaving the border undefended, and, what is more to the point, disallowed (should it be “disallowing,” here, if the parallel is with “leaving”?) anyone else to defend the border.

What is one to do, with the principle of subsidiarity so gravely undermined?

The answer is obvious, for at the end of the day reality always reasserts itself: Texas is either an integral entity – or it’s not, and ceases to exist. And it does not seem that Texans are ready for such oblivion – they want Texas to remain Texas, in all that entails – and not just an extension of Mexico, and, further south, of Central and South America.

Hence, the stand-off, and we will see who blinks first. (But one wonders what is actually going on at the southern border, and this brief clip raises any number of questions).

Those who support untrammeled immigration seem to confuse – whether wittingly or not – the fundamental and universal right to emigrate with the non-universal and restricted privilege to immigrate. That is, one is free to leave a given nation – the land of one’s birth, usually, even if Pope John Paul calls such a ‘necessary evil’. But one is not free to enter another nation, without fulfilling certain requirements and conditions, which the welcoming nation is free to delineate, and restrict. To return to where we began this brief reflection, if a nation is to remain a nation, there must be something that defines said nation and the citizens thereof, whether of America, Canada or Scotland.

These questions go beyond the immigration crisis, for the dissolution of borders is analogous to, and follows upon, the dissolution of identity. We no longer agree on who we are, and what we are meant to be. What is a woman, a man, an unborn child, marriage and family itself? What is our view of God, and our destiny, here, and hereafter? What do we owe to each other, and what are the limits of what may be done, and not done?  Diversity can only exist within a deeper unity, and that unity can only be found in the truth.

We no longer agree on ‘self-evident’ truths which held nations together, leading to the dis-integration we see all around us. Is it now past time that we – Republicans and Democrats, red and blue, Liberals and Conservatives – go our separate ways? For these political labels now signify far more existential divides, and we no longer share a common cause.

All such ruptures may be painful, but, for the survival of the organism, perhaps necessary.

Si vis pacem, para bellum.