Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lebensraum / Elbow Room

The Schoolhouse Rock video "Elbow Room", celebrating the westward expansion of the U.S., got considerable TV airplay back in the 1970s when I was a kid. It looks very different to me now. What I find most chilling is the gleeful -- I'm sure unintentional -- parallel to the Nazi idea of "Lebensraum" (living room), used to justify German expansion.

Here's the video:

We were so fortunate to have an empty continent all to ourselves, don't you think?


Shane said...

The expansion west in the video seems to echo Lebensraum. But my understanding on Manifest Destiny seems to have nothing to do with need of expansion, and more to do with the right of the American Nation to expand west. I feel that the latter is far more reprehensible than the former.

Shane said...

"right" should be in quotations. I hope that no one mistakes me.

Jeff Rubard said...

I think you just don't get it; thinking harder about "Manifest Destiny", and not sweeping *Deutschtum* and tepid affinities for the-canonical-We under the rug, was "incumbent upon you" at a *previous* stage of your fine, fine, *superfine* education where you could have shown your work, Schwitzgebel. If you'd like a joke to begin your *adventitious* adventuring with, consider it motivated by 'because I says so' -- a precise content for "manifest" in the American *Sprachraum*.

I dealt with the problem of the Oregon Territory in my recent book as "Robert W. Merry" on James K. Polk; not my main man, but American history permits those who are "truly down" to piece together the narrative for a particular sequence of historical actions in a *rational* and perspectival fashion; thinking about why Portland, OR is named after Portland, ME, rather than the worst part of all being that someone [OH MY GOD I JUST LEARNED I HAD TO SPECIFY IT'S NOT IMPORTANT THEY *SEEM* BLACK TO ME] never learned to read.


K_Boughan said...

Yeah, that particular SR bit has not aged particularly well, and was arguably rotten to start with. The SR producers seem to have been under an imperative to be maniacally upbeat and positive about the development of the U.S.A. as a sovereign state, and they had to say something good about the 19th century. Hence the distortion that the US wasn't being a genocidal imperialist bully, it just wanted a little space.

All of the SR bits are really showing their age, if not in terms of historiography, certainly in terms of style -- the 70s are two generations past now -- although "Sufferin' until Suffrage" still has a certain appeal.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

I agree Kurt, that one aged better.

"Conjunction -junction, what's your function?" was a major earworm for me when I was a kid.