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A time of rampant weirdness

I like sleeping on a hard bed as well as the next guy, at least as long as the next guy isn’t a swami or fakir or whoever those guys are who sleep on beds of nails and shards of glass.

I like sleeping on a hard bed as well as the next guy, at least as long as the next guy isn’t a swami or fakir or whoever those guys are who sleep on beds of nails and shards of glass. It’s not that I have a bad back, although I do believe sleeping on a soft bed is a key ingredient in developing one. The hard bed thing is just a personal choice, like black coffee instead of double-doubles. I don’t question it too deeply but I do recoil in horror whenever I plop myself onto someone else’s bed that wraps around me like I was the filling in a chalupa.

But this is ridiculous. I’m now sleeping on a bed with no mattress. It is way too hard.

I think I finally understand at least part of the problem Canada is suffering imagewise over our "porous" borders, you know, the ones that let in terrorists from all over the world. The problem is this: Canada is way more worried about keeping used mattresses out of the country than it is about keeping warlords, assassins, despots, bombmakers, terrorist cells, rabble-rousers and the rest of the world’s shit-disturbers on the other side of our borders.

Immigration ought to be run by Customs. That would solve the leaky borders thing. On Monday, everyone working in Customs should swap uniforms with someone the same size in Immigration and vice-versa.

Let’s review the evidence. Nine years ago, I moved a perfectly serviceable queensize bed out of my home in Toronto and into storage in New Mexico. The reasons seemed obvious to me – no one living in New Mexico is familiar with the words mould and mildew. Hot and dry, for sure, but mould and mildew are foreign concepts.

Earlier this week I tried to bring the same bed back into Canada along with a load of other household junk, er, treasures.

"Can’t let you bring the mattress across the border," the steely-eyed Customs officer said.

"Why not?"

"Health regulations. It’s unsanitary," he said in a voice made even cockier knowing he was hiding inside full body armour.

It didn’t matter that whatever cooties were on the mattress were my own and it certainly didn’t matter that anything possibly living on it would have died after seven days exposure to air, let alone nine years of storage in temperatures ranging from freezing to POW sweatbox. The fact is that no suspect American mites are going to get a chance to breed with little hockey sweater wearing Canadian mites as long as Customs is ever vigilant.

And vigilant they are. You might recall the Little Sisters bookstore in Vancouver was embroiled with Customs for several decades at the highest levels of Canadian jurisprudence because sharp-eyed customs officers were not about to let homo-lezzie books slip across the border to infiltrate and alter the bedroom habits of our nation.

However, had I been hauling a cabal of third-world radicals dressed in plastic explosive Hallowe’en costumes, Chuckie Customs would have referred the lot of us to Immigration who would probably have found an interpreter possessing the appropriate language skills and who, in turn, would have informed the whole sick crew how to apply for welfare benefits as soon as they got to their destination.

I’m not trying to jump on Stockboy’s circle-the-wagons and keep out the immigrants approach to foreign policy. I’m just suggesting there are a lot of very weird things that go on in the land of policy and procedures. And this is truly a time of rampant weirdness.

Americans, for example, embroiled in their own war weirdness, now have a newfound understanding of Canada. In the past, the average American knew this about Canada: It’s where cold weather comes from; we have Mounties who mush dogsleds; maple syrup is a key ingredient in the national cuisine; we suffer under socialized medicine. Rightly or wrongly, Canada is now also known as the preferred point of entry for terrorists determined to destroy America. Of course it’s not true, but truth is always the first victim in war.

Because of the despicable act that precipitated the current war, truth is not the only early victim. Open discourse – a hallmark freedom of my homeland – has also taken a beating. There is no quarter given for the discussion of certain admittedly very difficult questions right now. They’re not discussed in the popular media, who have embraced the spirit of revenge and retaliation unquestioningly. And they’re not even discussed on campus, formerly the last holdout of Socratic debate.

A history professor at the University of New Mexico stuck his foot in it while I was down there. A leftover ’60s type, he flippantly – and stupidly – suggested he’d vote for anyone who blew up the Pentagon. You can almost hear the dismissive, glib tone of voice he probably used to deliver that ill-timed line, reflecting old grudges against the military’s many shameful actions in the past and hopeful, perhaps, of sparking serious debate in his classroom.

Debate has been engaged alright. But it’s being played out in the local media and the topic being argued is whether to simply fire the miscreant who dared utter those words or whether to warm up the tar and pluck a couple of chickens to mete out justice. Such is the tenor of the times.

Within that context it may be understandable why discussions of harder questions get stifled. Questions like whether the US has any real support in international law for the actions it has commenced against Afghanistan? In the court of public opinion, that’s not even considered a real question.

Afghanistan provides refuge and succor for the man the unpublished proof points to as being responsible for launching the attack. Reason enough to bring the force of arms to bear against another sovereign nation? Not according to the established body of international law and not even under the broadest reading of Article 51’s self-defense clause of the UN Charter.

Is that important? Only if you believe in the rule of law. If you believe might makes right, if you believe when someone hits you it’s okay to hit their friend in retaliation, then it’s not important at all.

It’s not okay to discuss the "whys" behind the attacks either. It’s considered both unimportant and un-American.

But the most interesting question that never gets asked is this. If we’re going to war against terrorism, how will we know when, or if, we’ve won? When nations war, it’s over when one sues for peace, signs a treaty and subjects itself to the terms imposed by the victor. How do you know when you’ve beaten terrorism?

Don’t get me wrong and please don’t hassle Bob with letters about what a knob I am. I don’t condemn the course the US and NATO allies are embarking upon. I only question the silence greeting it.




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