This Land Is Our Land

by Nicholas Kristof for the NY Times

Most of the time in America, we’re surrounded by oppressive inequality, such that the wealthiest 1 percent collectively own substantially more than the bottom 90 percent. One escape from that is America’s wild places.

At a time when so much else in America is rationed by price, egalitarianism thrives in the wilderness. On the trail, no one can pull rank on you — except a grizzly bear. (In that case, be very deferential!)

Wilderness trails constitute a rare space in America marked by economic diversity. Lawyers and construction workers get bitten by the same mosquitoes and sip from the same streams; there are none of the usual signals about socioeconomic status, for most hikers are in shorts and a T-shirt, and enveloped by an aroma that would make a skunk queasy.

Car campers often pay fees. But there are almost never fees for backpackers in the real wilderness. Instead, you pay in sweat and blisters. In that respect, the wilderness reflects a vision for America that is more democratic than just about any other space in our country.

Wilderness offers therapy for the soul as just about the last fully egalitarian place in America. Here we all stand equal — before the bears and the mosquitoes. And there’s a lesson here worth emulating for the rest of America.

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