So much has been happening that I have trouble keeping up. This past month a border skirmish erupted between the planet’s two most populous nations, China and India. The skirmish took place in the Himalayas, around a disputed border line. About twenty died in a scuffle that the New York Times reported as involving clubs and stones. This image stuck with me. As kids we used to chant “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” Quite apart from the incorrect message in this saying, it struck me how childish border skirmishes are. Like race, national boundaries are mere human constructs. We’re obsessed with ownership. Territoriality. This land belongs to me, not you. If you disagree we can club and stone each other to death to prove it.
I mailed a package to someone in Canada recently. Not only did I have to fill out a customs form, I also had to fork over quite a hefty sum, amounting to half the price of the item sent. The reason for the high cost was that this was international mail. Now, I can understand Canada wanting to distance itself from its southern neighbor, but why do we feel that we need to have strict borders? We’ve been peaceful for centuries. Being who I am, my thoughts tend toward the breaking down of religious ideals of unity. Believe me, I know these are only ideals that we never realized in practice, but the concept haa been there from the beginning. Religion tends to divide rather than to bring people together, no matter what the founders of various traditions taught. Now even that is breaking down.
As the New York Times points out, both India and China are nuclear powers. During this time of social distancing I had secretly hoped national aggressions might fade. With some eight million people infected worldwide, you might think we could all work together, put down our sticks and stones, and see the human face before us. We wear masks, I guess, for more than one reason. The primitive nature of that skirmish bothers me. People beating one another to death with rocks and clubs over a location difficult to reach just so both sides can lay claim to it. In my mind’s eye I envision a gray-black monolith appearing in their midst. A message of progress being beamed into their heads. We’re two decades beyond that benchmark, and we still don’t get the message.