I find the concept of borders intriguing. Do you?
Borders define space. This is my space. That is yours.
Borders allow freedom. I can do what I want up to this line. You may do what you please up to the same place. Once someone crosses that line, space is encroached upon and freedom is threatened.
Borders not only unite – this side of the country’s border is homeland to us – borders also divide. That side belongs to them. To the foreigners.
Borders speak to us in everyday life.
Physical property boundaries may be represented by an orange flag at the back corner or a splash of paint on a tree trunk. State and country borders are announced by signs, bridges, rivers, and special crossings. Some are defended with armed guards.
In rural settings, property boundaries are often depicted by tree lines, hedges, or stone walls. In the city, you’ll find fences, curbs, and brick walls. These types of borders are a favorite focus for photographers and painters, creating depictions which give us a sense of peace and rightness in our world.
Borders such as these creep into our language with such adages as, “Good fences make great neighbors” and “Peace respects borders.”
Other expressions on the topic of borders come from historical accounts. Julius Caesar gave us “crossing the Rubicon,” an expression which came to mean making an irrevocable decision, when, in an act of insurrection in 49BC, he led his army across a border – the Rubicon River – to take control of Rome.
Another great phrase, “crossing the line,” may trace back to our own country’s history, from the battle of the Alamo. My favorite portrayal of this scene comes from the movie, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. The fateful night before the final attack from Santa Anna, Colonel William B. Travis assembled the few remaining defenders of the property and frankly apprised them of the situation.
“Russell brings bad news, men. The defense of the Alamo rests on us alone.
“Now I won’t minimize the gravity of our situation, but General Santa Ana has nearly 5,000 men massed against us. Now I can’t force you beyond patriotism and your own conscience. While it’s still dark, there’s time to slip off to safety. I won’t blame any man who doesn’t stay.”
(He unsheathes his sword and with it slashes a line in the sand.)
“Those who stay, cross over the line.”
Every man, fully knowing the consequences, stepped across the line. At least, in the movie, they all did. History tells the story a bit differently, but the scene from the movie always moves me to chills and tears.
It speaks of a patriotism that knows boundaries, that understands the need to defend its cause, that willingly stands to live or die on solid principles of right and wrong.
It speaks of integrity, of strength of character, of individual standards which combine to make a nation great.
It speaks of boundaries we’re willing to cross, borders we’re willing to defend.
More often, though, “crossing the line” has a negative connotation.
Several years ago, my oldest son caught my attention by describing a friend of his who lacked moral guidance with the depiction: “His problem is that he’s never drawn a line in the sand and said, ‘This is a line I WILL NOT cross.’ So there is nothing he will not try, nothing he will not do.” Pretty wise observation for a teenager, I thought.
During some intense discussions in our house, we have considered the question “Is there anything you are NOT willing to do for money?”
It’s a question of borders, of boundaries.
How far are you willing to go?
Can you be bought?
Will you cave to pressure?
Do you have standards you refuse to compromise at any cost?
Is there a line you WILL NOT cross?
Today, a day of great patriotic fervor for our country, is a day to remember borders.
It’s not only a day to appreciate this physical property, but also a day to remind ourselves to stand on the principles which gave us the freedoms we love. It’s a day to consider the boundaries we’re willing to cross to preserve it, the borderlines we’ll refuse to allow others to encroach.
It’s a day to appreciate those who have crossed physical boundaries in order to defend moral ones, those "certain unalienable rights."
Thank you, patriots of our past and present, who have done so at great cost to yourselves.
I salute you.