Question #4 Section 1
Dusty trails, wagon trains, and tough guys on horses, the images that come to most peoples mind when they think of the migration towards the western frontiers. Today we are able to see the obvious effects that this migration has left on our society even today; (Sunny and warm Phoenix, hip coffee from Seattle, and that strange utopia of its own, California) but what are some of the not so obvious effects that it left?
The late 1800’s was a time of many great opportunities and advancements for the American people. With gold being discovered in many of the western states, the construction of a trans-continental railroad, and more then enough land open for settlement one couldn’t go wrong with this new frontier. This is great for the greedy materialistic side of the American peoples, but what did it do to the over all psyche of us.
Americans have several combined viewpoints that exist when it comes to advancement within in our culture: “Because it’s there”, “We are Americans, we are better than you”, “and we are America it’s our God-given right to” “Because we’re happy, you should be happy too.” These thoughts were behind the whole western expansion and still exist today.
The “because it’s there” and the “it’s our God-given right too” kind of go together hand in hand. We saw all of this open land the left of us and thought “why are we letting all of that go to waste over there?” We also felt because we had settled here and seemed to have such powerful hold on everything we saw it as our “God-given right” to take all that open space to the west over and claim it as or own, no matter who said other wise. So we went, and claimed it as ours, and as we all know it lasted. This mindset seems to still linger in our sub-conscious even today and such examples can be seen in many different situations. Granted the circumstances are slightly different but over all the implied thought process is still the same. America has the tendency today to see itself as the protective big brother of the world, and we are constantly getting into scuffles with the “bullies” of the world. For example an insurgence breaks out in a different country and we see it as our duty to quell this uprising. It goes with the mindset “because it’s there”, we have the ability to leave it be, but because it is there and that seems to be all the reason we need to take over, and we do.
The other mindsets, “We are Americans, we’re better than you”, and “We’re happy so you should be to” also play in with some problems that occurred during the migration westward. During our migration we encountered many of the Native and Mexican peoples and we saw them as nothing more than an obstacle that was in the way of progress. We also looked at them as though they were a less superior being, and shouldn’t be seen around such great achievements. We began to gather these people like animals and setting them aside on land that we felt was unfit for us. From that point forward we kept these people oppressed for a long period of time, denying them the right to vote, citizenship, etc. Today a similar mindset has been instilled upon us from such treatments. Many people look down upon the Native Americans, claiming them to be “lazy” and doing nothing more than “getting in the way of progress.” Such an example could be seen here in Albuquerque. Many developers would like to expand to the land right at the foot of the mountains but are unable to because the land is Native territory. Many people say it’s “slowing down progress for the city” “that land is going to waste, it’s not being used.” Sound familiar?