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La grandeza de América es mucho más que geografía. Imagen: Unsplash

Four Pillars of U.S. Greatness Embodied in Yellowstone

The country’s greatness is much more than a geographical consequence, it is the result of a society that built institutions and infrastructure

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The greatness of the United States is unquestionable. In just a couple of centuries, this country went from being the fragile experiment of 13 colonies that had defied the centralist tendencies of the King of England (who in turn tried to copy the French model) to the greatest economic, military, social and technological power ever seen in human history. The question is, why did this happen, and what explains this dramatic rise in the concert of nations?

Decades ago some said race or religion, others claimed history and chance. Still others, particularly from the realm of geopolitics, stress the importance of geographic conditions and especially the Mississippi basin, which allowed for the consolidation of internal trade, while other natural barriers (the desert on the Mexican border and the inhospitable border with Canada) kept the new country safe from the risk of invasions that plagued European nations.

Although the latter argument has a share of reason, the greatness of America is the result of a much more complex interaction, where geography represents only part of the puzzle, and that is particularly clear from the unique perspective provided by Yellowstone, the world’s oldest (and perhaps most famous) national park, where much more than bison, elk and the occasional bear are revealed to the visitor’s eye.

The four pillars

1-. Nature: yes, it is true that natural wonders such as the Mississippi basin, the Texas oil fields and the Yellowstone supervolcano are wonders hard to find anywhere else in the world, let alone within the same country. However, as a multitude of third world countries can attest in their own pain, the mere existence of natural resources is no passport to prosperity.

On the contrary, without the rest of the pillars, which I will mention below, geographical wonders become mere whirlpools of ambition and violence, which instead of boosting the nations that occupy them, plunge them into mediocrity, like real ballast that curses rather than blesses.

2-. Infrastructure: Yellowstone is practically on the edge of the United States. However, both on the roads leading there, as well as inside the national park itself, it is almost impossible to find even a pothole along the roads. Good pavement, good road signaling, good hotels and campgrounds, good routes to tour the region by vehicle or on foot.

And this infrastructure is not a mere consequence of American prosperity, but one of its causes. Only by reviewing some of the many chronicles of the colonial era and westward expansion is enough to confirm how the development of roads, bridges and other means of communication always occupied a prominent place in the priorities of American society. Even while everyone was living in simple log cabins, they were already thinking and working on the roads that would connect them to the world.

Now, within current American political discourse there is a notorious crutch regarding “America’s crumbling infrastructure.” However, as a good crutch, that accusation that America’s infrastructure is crumbling is mostly false. Outside of a few cities captured by corruption and/or the Democratic Party’s regulatory obsession, America still has very good roads.

It is true that states like California need less “red tape” in their public works, but overall the country maintains its building vocation and will continue to count on good infrastructure as one of the pillars for its development in the 20th Century.

La grandeza de América se refleja en el cuidado de espacios como Yellowstone. Imagen: Gerardo Garibay
America’s greatness is reflected in the care of spaces like Yellowstone. Image: Gerardo Garibay

3-. Institutions: despite its remoteness, Yellowstone clearly demonstrates the strength of American institutions, especially in two aspects: the functioning of the government and public safety.

On the government side, the National Park Service, which comes under the Department of the Interior and employs approximately 20,000 people, provides very high quality service. I have visited a dozen national parks and have always found a level of care at least similar to what might be expected from a company in the private sector.

From the basics, such as a signpost to know where to park, to the day-to-day monitoring of sites as complex as Yellowstone, which is essentially the caldera of a volcano visited by over 4 million people a year, with all the risks that entails.

Certainly, the U.S. federal government is not perfect or paradisiacal, but it is far more efficient and successful than those in other parts of the world. And this is particularly evident in areas such as public safety.

For example, in Mexico, where the authorities are either hopelessly inept or hopelessly corrupt, the cartels even control the country’s main cities and highways, murdering and robbing whoever they want. And things are infinitely worse in rural areas, turned into fiefdoms for bandits in the most horrendous tradition of “Wild West” movies.

Imagine therefore what it feels like to visit places like Yellowstone and have the absolute peace of mind that we can be on the Interstate highway or in the middle of the woods, without fear that a group of hit men will murder us simply because they are bored or need the car to burn it and turn it into a roadblock in the middle of the highway. Or without a group of “ejidatarios” or “talamontes” extorting us.

Yes, it is true that some areas of the United States, as in the rest of the world, are unsafe, but there is an abyss of difference between the isolated/drogue assailant that you can run into in any city in America, and the army of hired killers or extortionists that roam Mexico with absolute impunity, aware that the only ones they have to worry about are the hired killers of the opposing side.

La geografía importa, pero la acción humana es el impulso de la grandeza de América. Imagen: Gerardo Garibay
Geography matters, but human action is the impetus for America’s greatness. Image: Gerardo Garibay

4-. Society: arriving at Yellowstone implies finding impeccably clean rivers and meadows, without trash from the “picnic” a family had two months ago, without “half-used” diapers left at the mercy of the elements, without half-collapsed vintage tents, without shouting or drivers who “get too smart” by passing on the shoulder instead of waiting in line.

And yes, it is also true that those mental images of dirt and disorder are indeed visible in many parts of the country, especially the big cities controlled by Democrats, but it is also true that at the heart of the American identity is a focus on education and courtesy, which is particularly visible in places like Yellowstone and is still alive in much of the country.

That courtesy, that education and that participation of people in the care of the environment they share has been one of the best legacies of the colonial era and even now remains an indisputable pillar of the greatness of the United States, that which is not only proclaimed from the height of skyscrapers, but also from the majesty of nature, from the solidity of the infrastructure, the strength of the institutions, and, above all, the education of the people.

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