Now to get out of Vermont you go through Quebec, the great Canadian province north of the border (odd, one never hears of "north of the border").
And, as all the world knows, the Quebeckers, who tend to speak French, have been saying the rest of Canada, which is mainly English-speaking, has been beastly.
So the great movement continues to establish Quebec as a sovereign state with full control over taxation and with freedom to enter such international agreements as treaty alliances, etc., while at the same time maintaining close and permanent association with what's left of Canada.
Now some people do not quite understand how Quebec can be a sovereign state, yet still associated with Canada. They need look no farther than Alabama.
Alabama is a sovereign state, with close associations to the United States, and the arrangement has worked all right so far.
Of course Alabama, some will quibble, has not entered any foreign alliances that we know of and does not have total control over taxation within its borders (as they are quick to complain, until federal handout time) so the parallel is not exact.
Not everybody -- and this may as well be faced -- is good at understanding mystical unions, or how separate things can be one thing. Fortunately as a youth I had no difficulty whatever with the Christiah doctrine of the Trinity in which the three Persons are three, all right, yet one. This is a help in thinking of Quebec.
Some of us, as students of international developments, have of couse kept close tabs on the unfolding resolution of the "Quebec problem," and it is a comfort to many that Quebec's prime minister, Rene Levesque, is conciliatory and tactful and does not go around talking about the goddam limeys or anything like that.
Americans do need the assurance, certainly, that Quebec does not intend to dig itself up and move it all to the South Seas or anything of that sort, and if some mystical arrangement can be made (like Alabama) it is hard to see what the objection is.
This month, for example, they appear to be close to an arrangement about the language the air-control towers will use for planes flying over Quebec.
You recall that at one point the Quebeckers suggested control-tower directions in French. The English-speaking Canadian pilots got so angry they closed down the whole Canadian air transport system in protest, in 1976.
It was an ugly thing. Very likely to increase undesirable prejudices based on language. The chauvinist opinion of many Americans, I well recall, could be summed up by the snide comment of the late John Aubrey. He made a study of education in 1666 and produced a book about the ideal school for English youths, where boys would learn Latin automatically from "10 or 12" Swiss, Dutch or Scotch lads who would be installed in the school, already speaking Latin well. He made a point of not letting any French boys do it.
"French boies are naught," he wrote.
"Like the shearing of hogges they make a great crie and little wool. Their mindes do chiefly run on the propagation of their race."
Now Aubrey was the best "born writer" ever to grace our language, but he erred here. It is not "propagation" at all.
And in any case, it was a sad day when this wrangle about the French language arose in the Canadian air system just three years ago and inflamed that very prejudice so many of us have labored to dispel. The French, I personally believe, exceed all the world in gloire and as far as I am concerned, in hospitality and elegance as well.
So it was good to learn in a recent newsletter of Quebec Government House that if air-traffic control towers used French it would not hurt the Quebec safety statistics.
Indeed, they go on, "Using French is probably safer than using English when both pilot and controller are French-speaking."
The best minds in Canada, in other words, are working full blast to achieve harmony and a happy issue out of all their impasses.
If a plane starts to run into a terminal, they will want to be sure which language the directions are given in first. That would not be the time to start arguing which has precedence.