Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My First Trip to Canada

I can't remember my first trip to Canada. Here's the back story.

My Dad was badly injured in an accident when he was like 12 or 13 or so. Pop never talked about the accident to me. I did know that, where practically all humans had a bone in their left leg, Pop had a bone -- and a piece of platinum. At least he still had a functioning leg, even if he did walk with a limp. That leg bothered Pop for the rest of his life.

Because of his bum leg, Pop thought he would never find a woman to love him. Let's see, degree in economics from Rutgers in 1935, active in the community -- especially St. James Episcopal Church and the Boy Scouts -- an all around nice man -- thought no woman would be interested in him because of his left leg.

Mom and Dad dated for four years before they got married. Mom eventually convinced him that he was a good man worthy of a good wife.

Pop was, in some ways, very cautious. For instance, after I was born, Mom and Dad went to a movie. I was left with baby sitters. When they got to the theater, Dad wanted to phone the sitters to see if I was alright. Mom opposed that action, reminding Pop that her parents -- my grandparents and now my baby sitters - successfully raised three children to adulthood and could easily handle the grandson that they loved for an entire evening. Pop never made the call.

On the other hand, Pop and Mom too would think of doing things not exactly typical of most Americans back then. Family vacations were not trips to the Jersey shore. OK, we might go down there for an odd day in the summer, but spending even a week there just did not compute. I remember trips as far south as Virginia and as far north as Ontario when I was a child. These were all done by car. Yes, air travel was becoming somewhat common, but we were not rich enough to pile onto an airplane and visit, for example, San Francisco.

Pop's mother was Canadian. Pop had grown up visiting his cousins in Canada. So what did my parents do before I was a year old? That's right -- load me into the family car and drive me to visit my cousins in Canada. Pop was so happy to both be married to a wonderful woman whom he truly loved and who returned his love and to have a baby boy, he wanted to share his good fortune with his cousins. So I was driven to Canada to meet relatives whom I got to know better when I was older. The Hunter family are fine people.

For practically my entire life traveling back and forth to Canada was easy and normal. When I was growing up, the fact that the United States' northern border was undefended was a point of pride for Americans. It showed how open we were to the world and how friendly. Other nations viewed us positively, partly as result of that open, friendly border.

But now we live in the Age of Terror. "Security" -- or at least the appearance of it -- is paramount. The next time I travel to Canada, I will need a passport. An open border I remember for all my life is now closed.

Don't get me wrong. Real security that offers solid protection from real dangers is important. For instance, people who violently assault others belong in jail. Banks should have real defenses to prevent thieves, whether the walk in off the street kind and rob the bank with a gun or the modern cybercriminal who breaks into bank computer networks from afar. Computer network security is quite important -- providing it is carried out by knowledgeable people. But "security theater" that does nothing but impress the ignorant while, in some ways, harming our society needs to be looked at quite carefully. Openness -- such as that symbolized by the formerly open border with Canada

On July 1st, I will attend a Canada Day celebration at the Canadian Embassy in DC. Will I need a passport to get back into the United States?