Earth consists of about 37 billion acres of land. And at some point in human history, someone has claimed, fought, lived, or died over every damn inch of it.
The idea of owning land, or having an ancestral tie or mystical connection to a patch of dirt or swath of forest, is an ancient one. Almost every war in civilization’s long, sorry run has involved — or even been solely provoked by — the concept that a group of people have a right to a given plot of land.
So it is no surprise that today, much of our political energy is devoted to arguing over who owns various chunks of the planet. For example, recently, a small and particularly ill-behaved group of “white nationalists stormed a bookstore in Washington, D.C., to protest an event for a book on racial politics.”
Personally, I believe they were offended at the idea that anyone would read a book. But in any case, did this cadre of neo-Nazi lunatics shriek about the cultural significance of diversity, or point out the economic consequences of governmental policy, or bemoan the ubiquity of Avengers: Endgame spoilers? (Seriously, they’re hard to avoid.)
No, instead, they stood “in a line before the audience chanting, ‘This land is our land,’ and at least one man yelled white nationalist propaganda into a megaphone.”
Of all the ominous slogans they could have picked, they chose one that implied ownership of American soil and, by extension, possession of America itself.
After all, if one owns the land, one owns the country. And if it is “my country,” it cannot be yours.
This is clear in the conservative insistence that they are “taking this country back” (long a favorite catchphrase of the right wing). It is inherent in social and political policies that restricted ethnic minorities to certain neighborhoods, or pushed Native Americans to reservations, or for that matter, snagged us the whole damn state of California.
And of course, any discussion of immigration will inevitably conclude with shouting about who was here first, and who is the real immigrant, and who cheated whom out of their land.
All of which brings up the following question: Does it really matter who was on the land first?
Ideally, the land of a nation should belong to all the law-abiding residents of that country. The idea that you get dibs because your great-great grandfather happened to build a house that no longer exists is, at its core, an illogical claim.
And of course, if we’re talking about irrational resolutions, foremost among them is that damn wall.
You see, “after all their invading and butchering and land-grabbing, it’s the white people who want to build a wall to protect them (and their stolen land) from brown people.”
Yes, Trump’s wall is not just racist, xenophobic, idiotic, and impossible. It has the bonus traits of being hypocritical and preposterous.
Because this land is not their land. It belongs to all of us, or more accurately, to none of us. We can never really own it.
Featured image: Rachel Samanyi/Flickr