Monday, September 21, 2009
Heading back to Hamilton from Detroit, Michigan.
In looking at this picture and thinking about commenting on it, I realised that my view of things here might require some explanation. In New Zealand, where I grew up, the borders of our country were roughly the same as those of our coastline, with some exceptions involving various sets of tiny islands floating in the vast landlessness of the Pacific. Bearing this in mind, the concept of a border that begins and ends on land was rather a novel one for me, and I think it probably always will be.
What is most disorienting about the land-border is its blatant arbitrariness; the sameness of the landscape that is randomly interrupted by this drawn line, the official approval required to cross it, the effects of being on either one side or the other. When one stares out across a chain of mountains, no "border" presents itself; the idea of drawing a line through a lake or an ocean seems absurd. To be able to point and say "over there is Switzerland, and there, France, but here we are in Italy" is a peculiarly presumptive act.