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New Perspective on Wild West

November 25, 1990

This article reminded this writer of a statement by Reinhold Niebuhr 30 years ago. In his book "Moral Man and Immoral Society," Niebuhr stated, "Social viewpoints and analyses are relative to the temper of the age which gives them birth . . . A social analysis which is written, at least partially, from the perspective of a disillusioned generation will seem to be almost pure cynicism from the perspective of those who will stand in the credo of the 19th Century."

Frederick Jackson Turner, who is again in the clutches of a new crop of revisionists, holds that democracy was enhanced by the frontier experience. The institutions of society as well as historical perspectives are subject to reshaping and interpretation. The cumulative experiences of a society define an era or a theory.

Revisionists of American Western history are not going to bushwhack the legends of cowboys and Indians. The romance of the past, warts and all, generally survives. What revisionists will do is inadvertently impart a clearer picture of the psyche of their own generation by the nature of their interpretations.

The ensuing academic wrangling might shed some light on another historical phenomenon, the Baby Boom.

BARBARA G. PIEPER

La Canada

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