I recently started thinking about way back in the early weeks of class and how many documentaries have campaigned that national parks were America’s “best idea.” This really got me thinking, what are the reasons for this? Obviously there is the fact that beautiful land is no longer something reserved for only the upper class–suddenly all people with a small bit of change in their wallet can visit a national park and experience all of the grandeur that such an area expresses. But is this really all that the “best idea” entails? That we can all look at beautiful scenery and be refreshed by it?
That can’t be it. It must lie deeper in meaning, with the class system. It’s not so much the idea of having land to look at as it is the idea that it is a classless place–somewhere where it doesn’t matter if you are rich, well off, or poor. It’s as if America is looking at these social and economic class systems in the eye and saying it doesn’t want any. Well, there definitely is and was a class structure in America, but maybe in some small ways like these parks, we keep it from being completely dominant of citizen’s lives.
Of course, there are other public works that blur the line of this class system just as much, if not more so. Everyone in America has access to the same public roads, which all classes use to travel. Everyone has access to public libraries, fire stations, city parks and playgrounds–and everyone is protected by the same law enforcement in all places. Yet it is these national parks that are regarded so highly because of their availability. Why is this? Is something like this really more important than public access to education?
Maybe this importance stems from the fact that these national parks are more a part of America than we, as people, ever will be. The land was there before we found it, it is there now that we have it designated as such an untouchable piece of land, and it will always be there so long as there are national parks. The most public, American piece of America is the land itself, and that is what these national parks protect. Not only do they protect, but they ensure that everyone who lives on this land that follows after us will get to see the glory of just what America is–for it’s not the government, it’s not the people, it’s the very land. Even if everything else about America is built over, changed, ruined, the national parks will forever hold that image of what America really is.