What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Places

In Search of ‘the Commons’ in Modern America

My Rhode Island Town Has Had a Communal Green Since 1694, but Today’s Public Spaces Are Complicated and Splintered

by Steven Lubar

“The commons” is a concept, an ideal. The commons are property we all share, property that’s owned not by any one person or group, but that’s held—well, in common. It also has a distinct history in the U.S., harking back to early American towns having an actual commons, an undivided piece of land owned jointly by all the residents of a town. It was a place where all could graze their cattle, bury their dead, and meet for church and …

Identities

The Man Behind Montana’s Contradictory, Confusing, and Occasionally Crazy Political Culture

In the First Half of the 20th Century, US Senator Burton K. Wheeler Was Deeply Independent—and Often Confrontational

by Marc C. Johnson

There is an old line that “Montana is really just a small town with a very long Main Street.” It’s a state with 147,000 square miles and just over a million people, yet everyone seems to know everyone, or at least everyone knows someone who knows someone you know. The six degrees of separation in Montana are rarely more than two degrees.

Montana’s small-town dynamic, combined with sprawling geography and a rich and often-rough history, have shaped a political culture …