Chapter 9. Expatriates, Refugees


A person used to be able to travel without a passport and to live wherever he or she found liking. Now everyone needs to belong to a country; nobody is a citizen of the world, per se, and no country makes it easy for foreigners to get residency and work permits. For this to be easy, the United Nations would need to convene a working group to write new laws and settle how to tax people. Right now it’s not fair to the host country or to the expat.


It’s better to keep a distance, not be simmering in the same soup. Here, we are not Parisians; we are Americans but at least we’ve registered our protest, can deflect some of the blame, and can speak more rationally about provincialism posing as nationalism.


I have declared myself the emperor of Borderlandia. Borderlandia is a narrow, idealized state consisting of lines on the map. It exists between all adjacent countries or between them and the seas. I am not inviting anyone to ignore the privileges of nations, because ours is also a nation, but, as the emperor of Borderlandia, I give citizenship to all displaced persons, to the poor and persecuted. I give them the right to pass freely, to wander freely, and to live as they wish, wherever they wish. I will make this solemn pact with all nations and governments: If you respect us and protect our citizens who live in your countries, then we will respect you, and we will not charge you a fee for crossing over our country. If you say Borderlandia doesn’t exist, I say your borders don’t exist. If you say you’re more powerful, I say we have you surrounded.


They don’t want us where we came from. They made it impossible for us to make a living. Gangs shot our sons and raped our daughters. Then came the drought. We could continue to suffer and die or to begin a journey that will take us we don’t know where.