partment of Energy concerning thernAmerican government’s use of unwittingrncitizens as human guinea pigs andrnsecret atomic tests in the “wastelands” ofrnNevada is: What should we expect of arngovernment that seeks to make thernslaughter of unborn children the law ofrnthe land? The second is: What does therngovernment’s willingness to expose itsrnformer territorial people in Arizona andrnUtah to downwind radioactive pollutionrntell us about its true feelings regardingrnthat “second-class citizenship” it deploresrnwhen the second-class citizensrnconcerned are blacks, women, homosexuals,rncripples, or people without freernhealth insurance?rnAs applied to the American West, therncolonial paradigm works only if we assumernthat the federal system, based substantiallyrnon the acceptance of a discreternregionality, was—and is—a plan to berntaken seriously and adhered to strenuously.rnEvents preceding the Civil Warrnwere the first major test of the commitmentrnof American politicians to federalism;rnthey flunked, and, contrary to thernclaims of the Great Emancipator, thernwar that followed was a vitiation, not arnvindication, of the federal principle. Butrnwhile the War for the Union went a longrnwav toward deciding questions of regionalityrnin America, the subsequent historyrnof the United States is proof of howrnmuch was still left to decide, which fromrna states’ rights point of view has been forfeitedrnsince. Though the conventionalrnexplanation of whv the federal go’ernmentrnowns 89 percent of the state ofrnNevada, 49 percent of the state ofrnWyoming, and comparable portions ofrnthe other Western states is that no onernelse wanted the land, perhaps the timernhas come for historians to reconsider thernLIBERAL ARTSrnA SIGN OF THE TIMESrnAn aspiring surrogate mother whornoffered her “womb for rent” on a billboardrnoverlooking a busy Houstonrnfreeway received hundreds of callsrnfrom prospective patrons, reportedrnthe Chicago Tribune last November.rnThe woman’s lawyer said that candidatesrnfor the woman’s services calledrnfrom as far away as Australia and thernNetherlands.rnplausibility of this historical chestnut.rnUncle Sam, it is true, is no genius. Butrnhe is shrewd and, when it comes to assessingrnhis own interests, farsightedrnaplenty.rnParticularlv galling to Westerners isrnthe East’s quixotic decision that it nowrnprefers a theme park, playground, or fantasyrnland to the wide-open field for mineralrnextraction, railroad-building, cattlernranching, timbering, dam-building, andrndesert reclamation it once saw—almostrnexclusively—in the West. In this respectrnparticularly, the regions are out of syncrnwith one another, the East and Ear Westrnhaving discovered the joys of postmodernismrnbefore the West has entirelv enteredrnthe modern era. Viewed from arnsomewhat different perspective, the situationrnis the result of the extension ofrncolonial power from the industrial Eastrnto the postindustrial Ear West, from thern19th-century alues of industry and capitalrnto the late 20th-century ones ofrnleisure, recreation, and self-discovery.rnThe West, having been exploited byrneach set of values in turn, today finds itselfrnliterally pressed between them.rnIt is true that the forces currentlyrnthreatening Western civilization are notrnonly exogenous. The West is, and alwaysrnhas been, home to a powerful and determinedrnclass whose aim is to transformrntheir native region into a facsimile ofrnCalifornia, Texas, or, closer to home, thernSalt Lake Vallev; to slip the leash onrn”progress” and accomplish with theirrnbulldozers, drag lines, power plants, andrnasphalt spreaders an alternative type ofrndestruction to that being planned byrnoutsiders with their blueprints for resortrncommunities and second-home subdivisions,rntheir schemes for wilderness lockupsrnand lockouts. The debate betweenrnthe proponents of the Old and the NewrnWest is almost as vigorously prosecutedrnintramurally as it is across regionalrnboundaries, the chief difference beingrnthat the native advocates of developmentrnare former Sage Brush rebels whornwant the feds to remand all the Westernrnpublic lands to the Western states, whichrnin turn would sell them off to privaternbidders.rnApart from the obvious objection thatrnthese private buyers would be at least asrnlikely to represent non-Western interestsrnas Western ones, this solution to thernpublic lands question indicates the magnitudernof the crisis facing the Old West.rnAs long as Washington controls thesernlands, it enjovs nearly irresistible leveragernby which to determine the social, economic,rnand political future of the West;rnshould control pass to the states themselves,rnit would certainly devolve in shortrnorder upon a rapacious minority of Westernersrnwho see no loss but only financialrngain in “improving” their region to thernpoint where it becomes indistinguishablernfrom most of the rest of the country.rnThe rich may be different from you andrnme, as Scott Eitzgerald told Ernest Hemingwav,rnbut thev are no different fromrnone another. West or East, and they havernnot become rich by a regard for any considerationrnother than that of monetaryrngain. The paradox is that, for the foreseeablernfuture, the well-being and securityrnof the American West depend uponrnits public lands remaining in the grip ofrnthe federal government, withheld fromrnirresponsible development by private interestsrnwhile continuing to be madernavailable for limited and responsible privaternuse by Westerners, who for generationsrnhave made a generally precariousrnliving from them. Cattlemen and sheepmenrnare not presently damaging thernrange, which today is in better conditionrnthan it has been at any time since thernI950’s: a fact well known to the Clintonrnpeople, who have dishonorably attemptedrnto suppress the truth. The solution tornthe Western land use impasse is thereforerna simple one: preserve the status quornante helium.rnTen years ago I was visited by ErancisrnRussell, the late American historian andrnbiographer of Warren G. Harding, thenrnmaking his first car trip across countryrnwith his new wife at the tender age of 7 5.rnI drove Francis and his bride by jeep intornthe mountains, where they saw deerrnand elk, and later to a cedar break overlookingrnthe sagebrush desert of thernGreen River Basin for a supper of antelopernsteaks cooked over a juniper-woodrnfire. While I prepared dinner, Erancisrnwandered onto a stonv promontory arnhundred yards from camp and stood staringrnacross the broken tablelands to thernUinta Mountains 70 miles away in northernrnUtah, their snowy peaks bathed inrnalpenglow from the evening sun. “Yournknow,” he said to me when I went lookingrnfor him to refill his wine glass, “Irnnever dreamed a place like this existed inrnthe United States. America is really anrnempire, not a country, isn’t it? I neverrnrealized that before.” He was right, it isrnan empire. And right now what it needsrnmore of is something called Home Rule.rn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn