Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America
The myth of the Western frontier--which assumes that whites' conquest of Native Americans and the taming of the wilderness were preordained means to a progressive, civilized society--is embedded in our national psyche. U.S. troops called Vietnam "Indian country." President John Kennedy invoked "New Frontier" symbolism to seek support for counterinsurgency abroad. In an absorbing, valuable, scholarly study, Slotkin, director of American studies at Wesleyan University, traces the pervasiveness of frontier mythology in American consciousness from 1890 to the present. Theodore Roosevelt's "progressive" version of the frontier myth was used to justify conquest of the Philippines and the emergence of a new managerial class. Dime novels and detective stories adapted the myth to portray gallant heroes repressing strikers, immigrants and dissidents. Completing a trilogy begun with Regeneration Through Violence and The Fatal Environment , Slotkin unmasks frontier mythmaking in novels and Hollywood movies. The myth's emphasis on use of force over social solutions has had a destructive impact, he shows, on our handling of urban violence, racial conflict and the "drug war."