Elbow Room

It's fascinating to chart the momentum of cultural trends. Sometimes a peek into even the rather recent past can be shocking for what it reveals.

Today, we all "know" (because we've had it endlessly drilled into our heads) that the period of westward expansion was a shameful era in American history, a time when greedy, scheming, and corrupt white men stole the noble and peaceable red man's land and imposed their wicked and vile Eurocentric rule over the sweet-natured, charming, spiritually-pure, and morally-superior indiginous population of North America.

Yes, we all "know" these things... after all, haven't you seen Dances With Wolves? Well, there you go. That proves it.

Dances With Wolves came out in 1991, establishing for good the standard white-guilt narrative that had in truth been rendered innumerable times before and which has been repeated innumerable times since, in books, movies, documentaires, and stale, doctrinaire academic lectures. You know, it's the "white man bad; red/black/yellow/brown man good" template, which prevails to an ever-so tiresome extent all across today's oppressive and intellectually-incestuous Zeitgeist.

Yes, trendy white ethnomasochism is nothing new... and yet, it really wasn't that long ago (1975, in fact) that the Saturday-morning Schoolhouse Rock series-- a consistently liberal children's indoctrination program, sharing much the same hippie-ish vibe of the Free to Be You and Me project of the period-- could offer a song like "Elbow Room," a fun, upbeat, uptempo, unapologetic apologia for the white quest for Lebensraum in the American West. It is, believe it or not, a tune utterly free of any shame-inducement or egregious guilt-tripping of its target audience.

Yesterday, California... tomorrow, the moon! Check it out, Whitey: a time when a national TV program invited you to feel proud, not ashamed, of your ancestors... rock, roll, and remember, fellow Gen-Xers!