THE PRICE OF MANIFEST DESTINY: War and American Expansionism, 1800-1865

In my excitement I had mistakenly began to read Alan Le May’s Searchers instead of Glen Frankel’s Searchers, and what a big difference, history versus entertainment, one writer depicting the earlier frontier events that helped shape a country versus the other that brought a new cultural revolution to it’s people, perhaps a bit of fantasy “Hollywood style” after-all Hollywood has had greater impact on the new people of this land than it’s Natives.

So like the December read I now judge 2 books, similar scriptures, different scenarios, one version telling the old and the other replacing the original characters to convince their audiences, however, amazingly both books favor only one type of audience, “the new frontier land victors”

In past I had shared a bit of my own western cultural perspectives with some of you that long before I migrated to the west I had visioned America as still the land of cowboys and Indians, that all the American men dressed as “cowboys” with their counterparts “the natives” riding on bare back horses with bows and arrows in hand.

I suppose my illusion may had some validity to it, since every other film I saw was some sort of “Western” portraying America as the “Wild West”, and though I had not traveled this land yet, I had acquired a fantasy for the American old west and even mimicked cowboy games, it must be true that they say “one picture speaks a thousand words” Oh how psychology can work in to magic, even the mind of a young inexperienced lad from far away.

Western legacy has us believe that the American Native peoples as the people of the past or “non-existent” or perhaps they should not be part of this society, As they are hardly ever credited for any contributions in the foundation of this nation or mankind. As in almost every case, a victor has “The Ability to weave myth and truth into a seamless fabric”.

Therefor, a more appropriate title could’ve been, THE PRICE OF MANIFEST DESTINY: War and American Expansionism, “1800-1865”, The War of 1812 in the period of U.S. Expansionism to the Southwest and the Mexico borderline wars.

The victors triumphantly celebrate the likes of Christopher Columbus, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln and credit them as the founding fathers of America, however not a recognition or commendation for this land’s original people. And in a Hollywood style the true natives are fashioned as estranged people of this land, the land that rightly once belonged to them, “36 million of them”.

They are labeled as savages, murderous wretches and depicted as the arch enemy of the invaders, then again it’s the same story that every victor rights himself to write on his own behalf, and the usual transparency history has us believe that the invaders fought saving their rightfulness.

I remember once hearing an old tribal chief say, that they (Hollywood) can’t even use a Native to portray a native, then again, I’m not sure whether replacing “Jeff Chandler” Burt Lancaster” “Paul Newman’ or “Chuck Connors’ would have brought any justice to the native boys, “labeled savage”.

There’s a lesson here, we don’t know how any group’s idea will play out. What we do know is this, most of these groups and their ideas disappear, useful only for a handful in search of dissertation topic. But a few will change the world, sometimes long after they have failed to persuade more than a handful of people. In retrospect, by the late 50’s John Wayne posthumously captured the minds of a nation as a cultural image and an icon.

And It is said that John Wayne film characters mostly represented his true life ideology, his personality and sense of humor were very close to what the general public saw in the big screen, thus in an interview with the Playboy magazine he
remorselessly fashioned his truism, (racism) “the same radical that purports to condemn today”.

In his own words, “I believe in White Supremacy”, until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe giving authority and positions of leadership and judgement to irresponsible people, and I don’t feel wrong in taking this great country away from the Native Americans.

Furthering his comments, “As for our the so-called stealing this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great number of people who needed a new land, and the Indians selfishly were trying to keep it for themselves”.

As for myself I have traveled the filming location of “The Searchers” and have hiked and photographed nearly every valley and trail surrounding the film’s landscapes, the location is a Western film haven, tucked in northeast corner of Arizona’s “Monument Valley”, the southwest of corner of Colorado or southeast of Utah’s Moab and Glen Canyon, all national and recreational parks.

Whether the timing was right or just an opportunity knocked on Marion Robert Morrison’s (a.k.a. John Wayne) door or a coincidence that Gary Cooper turned down the Warner Brother’s 1st choice offer, claiming “The Searchers” was too dark of a story for him. And I wonder if John Wayne ever thanked Gary Cooper for the opportunity.

I can count the number of favorite movie stars or films I’ve seen in one hand, for me the storyline is more important than the film’s actors and actresses, as I have never found myself fascinated with Hollywood personalities, this does not mean I do not enjoy a well written script or a well acted film.

There were other films made that engaged differently than the John Wayne led “The Searchers” with the story of Cynthia Anna (Ann) Parker a.k.a. “Natua or Nadua” or the Texas Rangers, films like “Dances with the Wolves” starting Kevin Costner” represent a bit more from her tribal living years.

For instance there is little emphases on Cynthia Anna Parker’s refusal to adapt to the white people societies living standards and her son’s return back to the tribe in search of his father, it is also important to note that today similar scenarios are taking place as other societies and cultures who also refuse to integrate with the Western cultures as well.

The book’s glorifying storytelling may have gone a bit too far, such as Page 37, that Rachel Plumber, while bundling up her 18 old month son “James Pratt” in her arms, and the child crying out loud, mother oh mother, at 18 months old? Mother oh mother? Oh, that mighty pen of ink”, mightier than sword.

My list of John Wayne’s best film storylines and best acted films are “North to Alaska” a bit of the Northwest frontier history and a bit of love story, “Rio Bravo” an adventure film with lots of humor filled with background music, “Three Godfathers” showing Wayne’s soft side, simply put “Storytellers” Their most compelling characters (self-portrait) are themselves” and for me this describes the Duke.

Of all surprises Peter Paul Fix, (one of my favorites) the Western TV show Rifleman’s marshal Micah Torrence was Duke’s acting coach and appeared in 27 films alongside of him with more than 300 films to his own credit, compared to that of Duke’s 170 (142?) films, including 83 westerns.

In a final commentary, I read both books and viewed the newly colorized film “The Searchers”, but I wouldn’t rate it the best western storyline, scripted or the best western film of all-time or even in the top 100. I found both books fictionally narrated to please that certain audience, “the gullible”.

“Hollywood’s portrayal of Violence becomes no longer about the Violence itself”, “rather about the effect of Violence”, which advocates the acceptance of the history’s violent atrocities.


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