At 5 am on Saturday, February 12, 2011, a bus full of aging hippies, with a few youngsters below 40, pulled out of Belfast Maine, headed into Canada for a day trip to an old style "farmers market" in downtown St. Johns. Why? They wanted to learn how to build an urban community market for local produce and products in an age of peak oil, commoditized food, and deteriorating social, economic, and political systems. They were tired of being bought and sold by large corporate interests. Little did these middle class residents of a seaside town in Central Maine know that their trip had another lesson attached to it. That lesson was about the hell to come our way as we move toward a Police State.
The lesson began with a mild issue. In the flurry of organizing, the head of the Belfast Transition Initiative had left her passport in her purse on the seat of her car. She was flagged by the Canadian border guards. So they turned around to let her and her husband off at the U.S. checkpoint, allowing the bus to go on its merry way to New Brunswick without the organizers of the party. The obligatory radiation scan of incoming buses (even though they hadn't been past the Canadian checkpoint) set the monitors off. "When you crossed that bridge you entered Canada," the border guard explained unapologetically.
"The Canadian guards told us we could let the unpassported couple off the bus here and turn right around. We aren't entering the United States."
"When you crossed that bridge you entered the United States. WE are in charge here, not the Canadians! You will all have to get off the bus. First give us your passports."
So now they all piled off the bus to be scanned one-by-one for radiation. One of the elders had recently had a bone scan that left traces of radiation in her body. The border guards flipped from treating them like criminals (guilty until proven innocent?) to assisting them by issuing temporary passports to the tour guides and calling ahead to advise the Canadians to let them through. The group was able to move on with a sigh of relief.
They visited the St. John's Community Market and were able to envision similar markets for local wares in their own area. A few of them even made up a fable set in a future of autonomous local governance and trade. They envisioned a slice of heaven on earth.
But then there was the return home. Of course, they retriggered the radiation alarm. Without any civil communications, a well padded border guard ordered the radioactive woman off the bus into the care of an armed guard, directed the driver to take the bus through the scanner twice more, had them all file off the bus, and reran the same passports which both they and the Canadians had already checked earlier in the day.
He yelled at the tour leaders for the temporary passports that his colleagues had issued in the morning. "You can't enter the United States without your real passport." When she pointed out that the fine print indicated that this was sufficient identification, he threw the papers back across the counter at her, yelling, "Get out of here!"
She reentered the bus with swollen red eyes. The driver and some among the passengers said, "Well, the guards are doing this for the safety of the nation. After all, they are thwarting terrorists from entering the country."
Yet, others on the bus saw it as part of a pattern of increasing control of people by a corporate empire. They saw the government as the policing arm of that corporate empire, there to spread the turmoil of fear that provokes people to cower in the face of authority. Why else would these border guards have been so rude and intimidating about doing their job?
Can this relatively minor excursion onto the beaches of hell allow them to see the depths of hell visible just over the horizon? As all the problems inherent in this world of unsustainable living produce chaos and the deepening abuse of an increasingly authoritarian regime, what kind of world do we want for our children? This is the question that the Belfast Transition Initiative and other grassroots groups are addressing.
Fortunately, the guards questioning the Transition participants did not realize the potentiality of the quiet power they were facing. These local movements are like fleas on an elephant's back. Smash a subsection of fleas; and the others will multiply like crazy to carry on their job. It is a good thing we have these aging hippies that still remember the 60's. Look what happened back then!