I always try to read Andrew Sullivan’s weekly NY Magazine piece. And not just because I most often agree with him. No less often are his ideas fresh and different, and I learn from them. This past week it was his idea that the single most important issue facing the country was mass immigration, and furthermore that this single issue [waved about like a black flag by Donald Trump and his minions] could lose the next election for the Democrats.
And why is that? Well, as Sullivan says, the most powerful of Trump’s words during the campaign, was probably a tweet, that being the only language the Trump seems to know, “If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.” And the Democrats, they were flat-footed, didn’t move an inch in response, evidently had no answer, that which the millions of Americans who were watching immediately saw.
But Andrew Sullivan is wrong about all this, implying that Trump here is on the side of the truth. He’s not. The tweet he cites is just another lie of Trump’s, to be eaten up by his followers. No borders (in Trump’s case, no border walls) no country. A Trump lie, although at best perhaps half an idea, or half truth. But, as Sullivan says, so far the Democrats don’t seem to have an answer for Trump’s false statement that countries are made by borders. (Another question entirely, what makes a country.)
This lie, that no borders means no country, is a lie coming directly from the president’s abysmal ignorance of history. I would argue also that there is an answer, a good answer, a great answer, to Trump’s silly tweet, and I would hope that even now, after the campaign, there are Democrats, and others from the disappearing center of the country, who could agree, get behind this answer, give it their support, promote it from the bully pulpit. That’s what we need to even begin to do away with the multiple divisions that now divide us.
To Trump’s tweet, “no border, no country,” THE ANSWER is SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS. For without borders you then have a good chance of having something much better than a country, a civilization, that which Trump knows nothing about. The greatest moments in our history are about times when borders were not up and keeping peoples apart, when there were real civilizations resulting from peoples coming together across border lines.
We read mostly about civilizations, not so much about countries, in the history books. Such, for example, as the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, that of the Christian Middle Ages, that of the Islamic Caliphate of Cordoba in 8th. century Spain. And any number of others, including that of the Mongols in the 13th. century that covered nearly half the earth (no borders there!).
Open borders allow and encourage diverse peoples to come together and build, not a country, but a civilization. I’m for a civilization. If we can stop the Trumpists, the white supremacists, the nationalists, and all the others who would try to close us off from the world, why then we might go on, as in fact we have been doing up until now, with the creation of an American Civilization.