While facets of a proposed NAFTA Superhighway may indeed fall within the myth category, the idea is not really a laughing matter.
Certainly, anything that prompts 43 congressmen, including three presidential candidates, to co-sponsor a resolution decrying it must have a grain of truth to it.
History is replete with examples of far-fetched notions -- like putting a man on the moon -- turning into reality...
NAFTA, of course, is the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has governed commerce on this continent since its bipartisan adoption by Congress and then-President Clinton in 1994.
In their most extreme form, reports of the NAFTA Superhighway portray it as a secret plan for a 10-lane highway, four football-fields wide, through the heart of the U.S. along Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to the Canadian border north of Duluth, Minn.
Supposedly, it would be built without congressional approval, consume scores of homes, trees and farms along its path through eminent domain, and compromise U.S. sovereignty.
"And this ... is just the beginning, the first stage of a long, silent coup aimed at supplanting the sovereign United States with a multinational North American Union," wrote Christopher Hayes in The Nation.
Though there is no such proposal, "the myth upon which it rests was not fabricated out of whole cloth. Rather, it has been sewn together from scraps of fact," Hayes wrote.
There are no plans to build a new NAFTA Superhighway. It exists today as I-35, according to North America's Supercorridor Coalition.
"NASCO and the cities, counties, states and provinces along our existing Interstate Highways 35/29/94 (the NASCO Corridor) have been referring to I-35 as the 'NAFTA Superhighway' for many years, as I-35 long has carried a substantial amount of international trade with Mexico, the United States and Canada," states NASCO's Web site.
There was once a map showing an enhanced rendering of the corridor on NASCO's Web site, but it has been taken down....
As The Nation's Hayes points out, however, unlike the NAFTA Superhighway, something called the "Trans-Texas Corridor is very, very real."
"In 2003, amid a dramatic drawn-out battle over a legally questionable GOP redistricting plan, the Texas state Legislature passed House Bill 3588. At 311 pages, it's unlikely that many of those who voted for the bill had actually read it (and many have come to regret their vote), but it received not a single opposing vote. The bill granted the Texas Transportation Commission wide latitude to pursue a long-term plan to build a series of corridors throughout the state that would carry passenger and commercial traffic and contain extra right-of-way for rail, pipelines and electric wires," Hayes wrote.
So it is easy to see how the alarm has built up. The NAFTA Superhighway -- real or imagined -- has attracted the attention of CNN's Lou Dobbs, and 43 congressmen refer to it as real in their proposed resolution.
The resolution correctly notes that the U.S. "participated in the formation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) on March 23, 2005, representing a trilateral agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico designed, among other things, to facilitate common regulatory schemes between these countries."
The resolution alleges that SPP favors a "NAFTA Superhighway System" and says such a system "would likely include funds from foreign consortiums and be controlled by foreign management, which threatens the sovereignty of the United States." The resolution seeks to express "the sense of Congress that the United States should not engage in the construction of a North American Free Trade Agreement Superhighway System or enter into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada."
Reps. Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo are among the sponsors. Paul is running for president and Hunter and Tancredo were candidates before withdrawing from the race...
But ideas are powerful, and among think tanks and study groups, the notion of closer ties among the three countries and ease of crossing borders has support...
It is not such a far stretch to say that such thinking, which produced NAFTA in the first place, could encourage an eventual European Union type of relationship. Who knows? Just as there is a euro currency, someday there might be an Amero.
All of which is to say that anyone concerned about our relations with our neighbors to the north and south shouldn't be dismissed as a kook just because he or she starts talking about a NAFTA Superhighway. The idea is real.