Thursday, April 12, 2007
2007 is a real year for anniversaries. One of the most important is that it will be 400 years next month since the settling of Jamestown by English settlers.
Where's Jamestown, you may ask? Good question, as it's not on any contemporary maps anymore. It was the original settlement of the English in what we now call America.
Forget that fake origin myth about the Pilgrim Fathers. The original settlement was at Jamestown, though it didn't last very long.
In December 1606, over 100 settlers from London sailed from London under orders from James 1st (or the 6th, depending on whether you talk to the English or the Scots) to find gold and a westerly route to the trade centres of the Orient.
Yup, like all imperial adventures, it was a moneygrab, nothing more or less.
They settled Jamestown island in Virginia and almost immediately began fighting the actual inhabitants of the land, the Algonquin indians. Nice way to make friends in a new country. But there was no talk of multiculturalism or assimilation in those days.
By 1609, two-thirds of the population had starved to death. But the colony limped along for another ten years, until it was saved by the importation of, you guessed it, black slaves.
In 1622, the highly pissed-off local population took the battle to the colonists and killed 300 of them. King James was so annoyed he took the land into crown ownership.
The site remained of token importance as the location of Virginia's legislature until 1698, when the statehouse burned down. Within fifty years, it was buried below ground, the abortive first foothold of England on North American soil forgotten.
But its legacy obviously remains. Other English came, eradicated the natives and claimed the land. America became white, anglo-saxon and protestant, Wasp in other words.
Built on the back of black slave labour and continual immigration, not to mention genocide of the native inhabitants, the United States has good claim to be one of the least justifiable regimes on earth, from the very point of its origin to today.
On some level, Americans know this. Hence the continual desire of so many to hyphenate their nationality. They're not Americans, they're Irish-Americans, Latino-Americans, African-Americans.
In fact, the United States is so excited about celebrating its abortive birthplace that they've got luminaries like Bruce Hornsby and Chaka Khan to play at the celebratory event! Talk about ancient history!
On the other hand, the Brits are tremendously excited to resurrect memories of a time when they utilised theft and genocide to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of the world.
The current occupier of James' throne, good old Betty Saxe-Coburg Gotha, will be making a rare trip to the site of Jamestown next month not to commemorate the atrocities commited by the English at the site, but to 'celebrate' them.
What's to celebrate? English imperialism? Indigenous genocide? England doesn't lose habits easily. They're still involved in both activities today, in locations as diverse as Ireland and Iraq.
As Bruce Hornsby might sing, 'Some things will never change.'