Borders Within & Borders Without


Upon starting to write this piece, I was almost immediately drawn to a more technical definition of a “border” with my historical background. It seemed natural for me to stay within my field of expertise, at least relative expertise, that is. I wanted to speak on some major border, be it the one between modern Israel and Palestine, the infamous DMZ that lies between North and South Korea, or if I wanted to remain even closer to my roots, the vast sprawling borders of Rome, lying from nations like Britain through the modern Middle East, and continuing through places like northern Africa and Asia. These borders, while small, all hold places in my life, despite being from places I’ll likely never make it to. Their significance to me lies not in the fact that they are places that I hold some form of personal attachment to, but in the fact that they are places through which I’ve been able to expand my own worldview–places that allowed me to educate myself. Digging deeper into Rome cast me down the career path I still today hope to follow, the DMZ was an incredibly important part in my learning of modern foreign affairs, and Israel and Palestine’s decades long feud helped me bring light to the struggles of the oppressed–to those who are still having to fight actual physically violent adversity in today’s day and age.

But I did say almost, and I meant almost, because the border I really want to talk about isn’t physical. It isn’t a line you could draw through the sand with a stick and call it a day, nor is it a line of tape you lay in the middle of the bedroom to keep your brother on the other side. It’s one that is often crossed, intentionally or otherwise. You can’t put up a fence, or guards, or any other form of protection for that matter; it’s an entirely internal border each of us is forced to draw every time we wake up, and that border is our own. The boundaries we can choose to set in our day to day interactions are the most important border to any of us on an individual level. The lines you draw should not be allowed to be stepped over and disregarded, but the problem is that the only person there to defend your boundaries is yourself. I speak from experience. I am a very conflict-averse individual; at least I’d like to think I am; and so have consistently had issues throughout my life of people doing things that make me uncomfortable without even giving it thought that they might have done so. 

I’m not a religious man myself, but when speaking on this specific topic an often quoted Bible verse jumps to the front of my head. Matthew 5:5 goes as follows: “Let the unyielding then wrangle and quarrel about earthly and temporal things, the meek are blessed, for they shall inherit the earth.” The bit about the unyielding means little in our use-case, but the latter half of the quote and its implications for those such as myself, who lack the will to stand as the guard for my own boundaries, is staggering. The meek shall inherit the earth. The triumph of the small, the quiet, the reserved. It’s said reassuredly, as if to be encouraging to the reader or listener. The same way a dad would tell his son that he’s “Got it next game, kid!”, the line seems to be asking for those of us unjustly walked and spoken over simply to wait it out. Just deal with it, it’ll get better later.

I disagree, however. Change has never come without some sort of action, and the ever-changing borders of our real world are more than enough proof of such. If you want your borders respected, you must be the sentinel standing at the gate. If someone does something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s on you to enforce your borders, as if you don’t, others will continue pushing further and further in until you are unable to hold any ground whatsoever. An existence in which one is unacknowledged and disrespected is worse off than no existence at all. One must always remember that it is not only a want, but a right to be respected, heard, and taken into account the same as the other 7 billion people on the planet. This goes both ways, however, and if you’re doing all the boundary breaking you can wholeheartedly expect those you’ve stepped on to throw you back down the stairs at the first possible opportunity. Enforce your own borders, and respect those of others. An idyllic way of being.

I only realize now that I have accidentally written about the very topic I aimed to change courses from in the beginning of the piece. By treating our internal boundaries as real world borders, I’ve managed to turn a wholesome message into one rife with imagery of warfare and deceit. While I’d like to say that it was for some dynamic-irony I’ll admit was unintentional on my own part, I do feel the message to be much more potent in the way I’ve delivered it. All in all, we stick with what we’re used to, whether that be in our writing or our way about the world. No one likes to be out of their comfort zone and often they’ll even unintentionally stay within it. However, as someone who just recently discovered exiting that zone, I can say wholeheartedly that it’s much better to be uncomfortable once whilst asking someone politely to respect your boundaries than it is to be made uncomfortable a hundred times over when they toe over boundaries they had no idea you laid there.  “Let the unyielding then wrangle and quarrel about earthly and temporal things, the meek are blessed, for they shall inherit the earth” is all fine and dandy, absolutely. But one cannot forget the next line, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”