The 5 Stupidest Things Ever Done With Borders
Where you find a border, you usually find somebody pissed off about it. Borders are drawn by wars, treaties and political machinations that sometimes leave things in a state of disarray. And then, sometimes, things get really crazy ...
Some Americans Are Stuck on the Wrong Side of the Mexican Border Fence
The border fence between Texas and Mexico has been blocking thousands of shifty foreigners from taking American jobs since Bush put it there in 2008. Regardless of what you think of the policy, no doubt the people who live in sight of the fence are happy that it's keeping Mexico's violent drug war from spilling over into their backyard. Or at least they would be, if they weren't on the wrong freaking side of it. See, the problem is that, at some points, the fence is built over a mile inland from the actual border -- in some parts actually cutting through residential property.
"You guys still sure you're American citizens? OK, we'll check back in around 20 minutes."
Due to a treaty that prevents building in certain areas near the border, the USA figured they had a bit of buffer room around where they actually built the fence, so some Americans got to watch in horror as their country built a huge "KEEP OUT" wall that left them on the outside, like the dick in every horror movie who locks the door while one guy is still outside getting swarmed by zombies. So, every day, Americans living in America have to cross the American border fence to enter America.
And even that doesn't really convey the insanity of it; one farmer complains that he has to cross the border every time he travels between his field and his barn. At one point, it even cuts through the middle of a college campus in Texas. So students have to allow time to clear border security while running from one lecture to another.
Here we can see the Border Patrol watching over the border between the United States and the United States.
Life for Americans on the south side of the fence can be a bit nerve-racking. Seeing as they're trapped behind a wall with nothing between them and the violence of Rio Grande, it's not unusual to see smugglers, illegal immigrants and high level cartel members skulking around their lawns.
By the way, things are equally weird, if friendlier, on the Canadian border. There is a street (called Canusa Avenue) that sits directly along the U.S./Canadian border -- and we mean the eastbound lane is in Vermont, while the westbound lane is in Quebec.
Guess which side the 19-year-olds can legally drink on.
Keep in mind that ever since 9/11, the USA has been a lot less casual about people driving in and out of the States, even if you live in a place where "driving out of the States" means "backing out of your driveway."
Still, road repair is totally ignored.
If you're an American living on the south side of Canusa Street and you want to leave your house to the right, you're safe. Back out and turn left, however, and you've left the country -- and you have to pass through a customs office, even if you're just grabbing a quick bite at McDonald's.
"Could you please hurry up, I have ice cream in the back!"
Turn the wrong direction down Canusa Street, and you'll now need photo ID and proof of citizenship. Oh, and they often search your car randomly as well.
The Indian Town in Bangladesh in India in Bangladesh
You know what an enclave is -- it's a bit of one country that exists inside another country, like an island. On rare occasions, another island of territory winds up inside the enclave, and this is called a counter-enclave. So the enclave would be shaped like a doughnut, and driving across it would let you go out, in, out and back into your country again. Still with us?
OK, now imagine you live in the Indian district of Dahala Khagrabari. It's surrounded by part of Bangladesh, which is surrounded by part of India, which is surrounded by Bangladesh -- the world's only counter-counter-enclave.
If you lack the crazy to visualize it, here is a graph to help.
So when driving across it in a straight line, it'd go India, Bangladesh, India, Bangladesh, India, Bangladesh, India, Bangladesh.
Due to India and Bangladesh being, we guess, on crack or something when they drew up their borders, they have around 160 enclaves within each other's territories. But none as crazy as Dahala Khagrabari, which apparently came about after the two nations suddenly signed a peace treaty after a long history of wars, freezing in place whatever territories had been captured by either side.
As ridiculous as it seems to the rest of us, the residents aren't laughing. Probably because they're stuck there for life. Although they're Indian citizens, they can't leave their immediate neighborhood without passing through Bangladesh, for which they need a passport. But they can only get a passport from mainland India -- which they can't get to without passing through Bangladesh. Twice.
Likewise, for India to try to provide these people with basic amenities would be a logistical nightmare, so they don't. Without electricity or anything else we take for granted, Dahala Khagrabari is basically stuck in the Stone Age, while everyone around them modernizes. The only possible consolation is that the sliver of Bangladesh that's trapping them is in the same situation.
At least they have plenty of border guards to protect them from ... the other side's border guards.
The Korean Border Runs Through a Single Table
We're sure you're already aware that there's nothing that isn't crazy about North Korea. As you'd probably expect, a lot of that crazy is concentrated at the border between it and South Korea, the point where two of the most tensely standoffish nations on earth meet and stare each other down.
"Red rover, red rover, let North Korea come over!"
Known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the Korean border is the most heavily regulated border in the world, with nearly 2 million troops from both sides stationed along its 160-mile length. And since the Korean War never technically ended (they've only been in cease fire for the past 60 years), nobody is allowed to cross it. Ever. For any reason. Not even one of their presidents. Not even if one of their presidents is being chased by angry bees.
They take this shit seriously.
As you'd imagine, this makes any conversation between the two nations very difficult, because neither nation can just invite the other over for coffee and waffles. So the Koreans came up with a bizarre solution. Well, bizarre to the rest of the world. They went ahead and built the MAC Conference Room right over the border, with a meeting table that's literally cut in half by the national border. This allows officials from both nations to sit down and discuss matters without ever leaving their respective countries, because that's not at all ridiculous. Even when it's not being used, the room is full of soldiers just staring icily at each other all day.
The sunglasses are so the other guy doesn't know he's actually asleep.
So, if they're all sitting there, are they allowed to reach across and shake hands? If one president asks the other to pass the sugar, is he allowed to? Or does he just have to kind of hurl it over the border? And if he does that, does it violate the cease fire?
India and Pakistan Argue Over a Worthless Border Glacier
India and Pakistan are like the bickering brothers of nation-states -- their sibling rivalry is so ingrained that they wind up arguing about things that don't matter, just for the sake of arguing. A case in point is the bitter dispute over which of them owns the Siachen Glacier -- a piece of land so incredibly useless that any nation in their right mind wouldn't pay to take it. The problem is that when India and Pakistan were first drawing up their borders, nobody bothered to figure out exactly how the border would cut through Siachen Glacier, because the 20,000-foot-high deathtrap is so inhospitable that they couldn't even get to it, let alone send a team of surveyors through there.
"Send a message back to command. Tell them this place can eat every single dick."
So, they just agreed that India ended and Pakistan began at some indeterminate point over the barren wasteland. That was fine, for a while. Then, in 1984, Pakistan began issuing permits for people to climb around in the Siachen Glacier area. Just like a kid who isn't interested in playing with a turd until his sibling picks it up, India immediately claimed that the glacier was theirs, and history's most pointless war has been raging ever since.
India was first to secure around 900 square miles of territory with a 300-troop force. Pakistan showed up to the party late, and secured all the land that was left. They have been playing tug-of-war ever since, and today the Siachen Glacier is the highest battlefield in the world, and one of the most dangerous, but not because of the shooting -- more troops are killed by the elements than are ever killed by enemy gunfire. The Indians even had to design a special helicopter to reach and supply troops up there because the air is so thin.
"Quick, fire it! I can use the flames from the rocket to warm my hands!"
So what's so important about establishing the border on the Siachen Glacier? Nothing. Nothing at all, besides the fact that if one side backs off, the other will get a symbolic victory, which is something everyone is willing to freeze to death to prevent.
The Town That Got Scrambled
What, you thought that Inception-style enclave-within-an-enclave thing we had earlier was as crazy as they got? Welcome to the town of Baarle-Hertog, an ordinary town in Belgium, except that it's also in the Netherlands, and if you lived there, you might very well not know what country you're in at any one time. Here's a map:
It looks like somebody dropped the town and it shattered.
The city is split between the Netherlands and Belgium in 24 separate divisions of land, some no larger than a Little League baseball field. This madness came about back in the Middle Ages, when feudal lords would gamble with chunks of their land instead of money. Today, having international borders running rampant through the streets like this has led to some quirky situations where the border will run straight through houses or buildings that have been built since. Or, through the dining area of a cafe:
"Hey, you spilled your coffee." "Screw it, it's Belgium's problem now."
Some have even taken advantage of the screwy legal situation this presents. Like when Dutch laws required restaurants to close at a certain time, restaurants on the border would simply move their patrons to the Belgian side.
Then there's one story about a bank that had an ingenious method for money laundering -- Dutch authorities knew they were doing something criminal, but couldn't get to the vault since, even though the entrance was in the Netherlands, the vault was in Belgium. But likewise, Belgian authorities couldn't enter the entrance because it was in the Netherlands. So they both had to sit idly by and watch it happen, until someone had the amazing idea that the two nations should work together to make the bust. Now that's thinking outside the box.
"... and eventually, we all just sort of decided 'Fuck those guys.'"
Thanks to Kier Harris for the Canusa Avenue entry. You can find Xavier Jackson on Facebook or email him at XavierJacksonCracked@gmail.com.
For more ridiculous disputes, check out The 5 Most Retarded Wars Ever Fought. Or learn about The 7 Most Insane True Stories of Neighbors from Hell.