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The Frontier: America's Broken Template

While visiting out-of-state friends in Jackson last summer, I was involved in a conversation with a just-married couple who had moved to Wyoming two months before from Los Angeles for the now-familiar purpose of escaping drive-by shootings, berserk retired football stars, and the multifarious Sons and Daughters of Emma Lazarus. In the course of our discussion my hostess, a lady from Florida, overheard me warning them that Jackson is not Wyoming—a remark she later asked me to explain. My reply was an invitation to visit me at home in Kemmerer and see for herself, but all I needed to have said was that the state of Wyoming, unlike Jackson Mole, remains a frontier society—as do the greater geographic portions of Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Which is why, to answer another question by my friend, I choose to live in Wyoming. Bill Kristol can't find the place on a map, and Father Neuhaus doesn't know to look for it.

The dictionary defines "frontier" as 1) a border between two countries, and 2) a region that forms the margin of settled or developed territory. The American frontier as described by the primary definition was erased 20 or 30 years ago, and replaced by a no-man's land along the Southwestern edge of the United States. Strangely, while the frontier in the modern political sense has disappeared, the frontier of legend is still recognizable at the end of the 20th...

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