Archive for November 30th, 2016

The Divided States

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

I think that I occupy a very unique position in today’s political spectrum.  During my free time, I spend in a very urban, cosmopolitan and diverse neighborhood, where most of the people I interact with are of the white-collar corporate professionals of the liberal variety.  However, I work in the construction industry, which is heavily occupied by blue-collar conservatives and small business owners.  This has allowed me to hear all perspectives on politics.  I agree with some on the left, most on the right, but one thing I noticed for certain: these two different demographics have no idea how the other side thinks.

This theory is reinforced every fall when I make my annual hunting trip to the rural rocky mountains.  This IS the “White Conservative America” that many city progressives barely know exists–let alone the sheer size of it.  For those that don’t know, most of the land in the western states is owned by the federal government–we know them as National Forests.  The number of acres is so massive that I don’t even want to count them.  Similar in scale, however, is the amount of land that is privately held by individuals.  In South Park Valley alone, for example, there are hundreds of cattle ranches, each one consisting of many hundreds of acres more.  The sheer volume of property owned by single individuals is incomprehensible to the average city dweller in a 1000 square foot apartment.  I think this is where the great political misunderstanding really takes place.

ONE Person Owns all of this

ONE Person Owns all of this

Let’s step back for a moment and discuss the concept of private property and how it relates to the United States.  In medieval England, property ownership was not a right afforded to everyone.  In a world where white men occupied all levels of class structure, only your birth determined your nobility and eligibility to own property.  This is what made the colonies–and later the United States–so appealing to the common people: a person of any birth could own property (granted, only white men at first, but later expanded to all persons).  Therefore, the subject of private property–questions like “what it property?”, “who can own it?”, “can it be taken?”, even “can people be considered property?” (we fought a civil war over that one) is so ingrained into our national heritage that it is impossible to compare our contemporary politics to those of current European countries that never started with the same foundation.

This Flag Sends a Message

This Flag Sends a Message

Out in the western states, this heritage still exists.  This is why you see flags flown like the photo above.  No, this person isn’t ‘racist’ (Colorado was a Union state, btw).  This flag states that this rural landowner is prepared to defend his own property from seizure by any authoritative force or majority.

I recall last winter when a group of ranchers occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.  Social media exploded in an outrage: calling the occupiers ‘terrorists’.  However, I noticed that the vast majority of the keyboard critics (many of you reading, perhaps) were city-dwellers, doling out judgment without even trying to learn the ranchers’ perspective or the background of the situation.  I personally never took a position–it was too complex and remote for someone like me to understand.  However, what I knew at the time about the administration of federal land, I understood that somewhere in the story the occupiers had a legitimate grievance.

This failure to understand the perspective of the other half of America outside our cities is what led to the great shock at the election results earlier this month.  I wasn’t shocked.  I understood how these rural land owners felt–that they were being ignored and even abused by an ever-growing authoritarian government.  For over a year they turned on the TV and saw Bernie Sanders leading a massive horde of people and speaking in very similar terms that the Soviets did before seizing all the privately held land in Russia.  Now: is there any question why rural Americans “cling to their guns”? (Hint: its not for hunting–most of these people eat domestic beef.)

A Public Easement through Private Land

A Public Easement through Private Land

Another common misconception I hear from city-folk is that the government is the best steward of land and resources.  This is simply not true.  I can show you multiple hiking trails in the mountains that are damaged by overuse, littered with garbage, and showing decreased wildlife concentrations due to public encroachment.  The federal government simply doesn’t have the resources to protect the vast majority of land that it owns.  This is why private land ownership is so important.  When someone has a vested interest in preserving something, they will devote their own resources to do so. 
Private Land Cooperation is Imperative to Wildlife Conservation

Private Land Cooperation is Imperative to Wildlife Conservation

 

 

 

 

Property ownership is a right afforded to all–defined in our constitution. It is what separated us from feudal England, and what makes us exceptional still today.  We must respect this right, and the perspective of those who exercise it.