How the West Was Not Won

The famous Tabernas Desert, the filming location of many feature films and TV series. Because of its similarities with the No
The famous Tabernas Desert, the filming location of many feature films and TV series. Because of its similarities with the North American deserts like the Far West of the American West, northern Africa, the Arabian deserts, and its lunar landscape, served from 1950s and onwards for the shooting of many films and westerns (the spaghetti westerns) making the area famous around the world.

I am no historian but I believe it's what helped fuel America's expansion into the desert. The California gold rush of 1848 pulled folks from their comfort in search of wealth and the emerging American dream. They arrived tattered and torn, staked their land, and began to build a future for their families. It is an American ideal and part of the folklore of our beginnings.

As I hike through the desert I can almost hear the thunderous hoofs of the cattlemen chasing their steers to the watering hole. You almost expect the Duke to appear leading a band of ten-gallon white hats chasing the James Gang into the hills. Protect the women and children, circle the wagons. Transportation thrived with the expansion of the railroads. Schools and libraries were built and the settlers began to eek out an existence. Louisa May Alcott glamorized the ideal in her beloved writings.

In spite of the glamorous look back, times were probably harder than we could even imagine. Raising cattle here must have been extremely difficult. Trolling in a stream looking for glistening rocks while fearing desperados probably wasn't very rewarding. Although men were men and women something less, they had little of the discretionary time that we now think of as our right. As the rush panned out, we began to think differently of the times. Over 10,000 Native Americans were removed from their land and over 5,000 murdered. We now speak derisively about Gold Diggers and Panhandlers. Imagine the debate in Congress today if the same occurred. But our government and our people somehow decided it was right to just take what we wanted. An American ideal gone bad.

I wonder how it might have been different if our ideals were gregarious versus greedy? If somehow we had joined forces with the Native Americans to conquer the wilderness. Incorporating all of their values into the melting pot of the time. I suspect we would be in a very different place now. But of course, in spite of our modern credo, we didn't value diversity then and barely do so now. Anyone that is following any of the current political rhetoric can confirm. We espouse that America is the land of opportunity where hard work will get you ahead. That is, as long you have a pale complexion. We don't deal well with the rainbows of the Native-American, African-American, Chinese-American or any other hyphenated American. But it was on their backs that the country we treasure was built.

So the next time you look derisively at someone different, remember that without them we would not have what we value most. Sure, the Patriots fought for our independence and we would have had a nice piece of the east coast. Oh wait, there were people there too before us. Until we can figure out that all that glitters is not gold, we will continue to struggle in the world. Acceptance, diversity, and celebrating our differences is what makes us great. If we can figure out how to learn from each other, rather than kill each other, what a lovely place this would be.