…this land is your land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream wa-a-ters, this land was made for me and you. Sing along, go ahead I know you want to: as I was walking that ribbon of highway I saw above me and endless skyway I saw below me. Okay that’s enough. It’s kind of a cheap trick to just write out song lyrics and pretend it’s a blog post so I’ll get to the point. Also I forgot the lyrics so there is that issue.
When this song was written it was a bit of a socialist thumbing of sorts to land owners and the government alike. Screw you all the song basically says, I’ll go where I want because this land belongs to all of us and I don’t care about your dumb “no trespassing” sign or fences or anything else. It’s my land and it’s your land so you’re gonna have to share. Which is a fine sentiment, not one I am totally on board with in terms of all land but definitely something I agree with in a broad sense of creating public lands that can indeed be shared among all the citizens. But sharing is tricky, I should know I’m an only child, and it very often means that not everyone can get everything they want. You get some of what you want and someone else gets some of what they want and in this way we are all more happy than we were. I can add that if you are still unhappy even when you get some maybe you are just an ungrateful bastard and next time you should stay home, but that would be unkind.
National Parks for instance are, it is almost universally agreed, a wonderful thing. You go to a place and can learn about geologic history, you can recreate, you can encounter wildlife in wildlands, all sorts of lovely things that are available to all. Sure you can’t build your house in a national park even though maybe you really really want to because it so beautiful and all, but that is because we are sharing. You can go to place, maybe camp for a week or so (that is like living somewhere only way dirtier) and then let someone else enjoy it – sharing, it’s really nice.
But what do we do when your idea of what to do with public land comes up against what I want to do with public land. Let’s assume for a moment that the government of these United States more or less carries out the will of the people (if you strongly disagree with this statement check how often you vote and then get back to me with your complaint). So the government establishes and maintains our public lands and through various agencies sets policies on what can or can not be done on these lands. And we are more or less being represented in these decisions because we pay taxes that fund the agencies and the government and indeed the land. So this land is my land if you will. I don’t agree with all the policies related to public lands: I don’t like large scale logging, or so-called wildlife management practices (those wolves were here before your cows fyi) but this land is also your land and I get that there is a balance. We have to share because it is public land.
Some guys up in Oregon who fancy themselves a militia have taken up residence on some public land because, as far as I can understand from the articles, think that they should be in charge of what happens to public land and really it is their land because they want it to be. The say they are representing Americans and are taking the land back from the government, but I agree with the government on this one – they are representing me, and these yahoos in Oregon seem like a bunch of selfish, greedy land-grabbers who want something funded by the public for their private use. That is not called sharing, that is called taking.
The Oregon gang is lead by the son of a guy who made a spectacle of himself some years back after he had a kerfuffle with the government who objected to his grazing his privately owned cows on public land to the point of destruction of the public lands. I don’t think he offered to share his cow profit with the rest of us, he just wanted to take what we all pay for and use it just for himself. Once again, not sharing, taking. Now these folks are literally up in arms because a couple people went to jail for lighting fires on public land to protect their private property: destruction of private property for personal gain.
When you share something you get some of what you want, just some and you have to live with the fact that other people get some of what they want to. Sharing is a value that we as a society have said we think is good, it makes more people happy than having just a few people have everything. I can’t have all the money in the US Treasury, if I went and took it that would be stealing from every other American because we are all a part of this economy, together. So same principle applies: my land, our land, your land is for sharing, not for you taking and keeping for yourself.