"Three Great Civilizations Came Together for the First Time..." in Jamestown
By Paul Street at May 16, 2007
I don't often just paste in full commentaries by others and call it my blog post but I'm going to make an exception for Ralph Reiland's excellent, short and sweet reflection on Queen Elizabeth II's nauseating trip to Jamestown. Readers may recall me having a thing or two to say about media coverage of that little adventure.
Here's the Reiland piece - helluva nice job:
The 'Discovery' Racket
By Ralph R. Reiland
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Monday, May 14, 2007
The weirdest thing about the recent stop in Virginia by the World's Biggest Freeloader was how the local Indians reacted.
Her Majesty, the begloved Queen Elizabeth II, was on hand to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement in North America -- an early outpost for what was to become a full-scale invasion with genocidal consequences.
Fully feathered and deferential, representatives from eight indigenous Virginia Indian tribes, or at least what's left of them, performed a welcoming dance for the queen.
One of the tribes, the Pamunkey, now lives on a reservation adjacent to King William County in Virginia. Thirty-four families reside on the reservation's 1,200 acres, over 40 percent of which are wetlands (Disney World in Florida is 35,000 acres). There's a Baptist church on the property, plus a nonoperating one-room schoolhouse, a pottery shop, a small museum and a large burial site.
The chief of the tribe, William "Swift Water" Miles, presented the queen with a reproduction of a blue onyx brooch allegedly worn by Pocahontas, the Pamunkey girl who became famous for her supposed romance with Capt. John Smith, an early Jamestown leader.
Speaking to the Virginia General Assembly, Elizabeth II pontificated on the importance of Jamestown: "Three great civilizations came together for the first time -- Western European, native American and African."
That's like saying Seung-Hui Cho "came together" with the professors and students at Virginia Tech.
At Jamestown and onward, Europeans got the land, Africans got long-lasting chains, their offspring born into a lifetime of slavery, and Indians got virtually eradicated. Still, declared Her Majesty, we're good here in the colonies at doing the "melting pot."
Perhaps -- assuming that blacks wanted to work for nothing for two centuries and Indians didn't mind trading a culture for a shot at a casino.
"With the benefit of hindsight, we can see in that event the origins of a singular endeavor -- the building of a great nation, founded on the eternal values of democracy and equality," continued the queen, regarding the significance of Jamestown's founding.
Well, "democracy and equality" without any votes or input from the original inhabitants or the slaves -- or from women of any color.
Jamestown, as portrayed by the queen, was simply an early episode of friendly globalization, a stab at creating a better world order by "spreading democracy," a self-congratulatory messianism by the more powerful and better-armed to remake the world in their own image -- even if what was required was the subjugation and elimination of millions.
"If they have the power, and the end is considered sufficiently vital, states justify the means of achieving it -- particularly when they think God is on their side," writes Eric Hobsbawm, professor emeritus of economic and social history at the University of London.
Historian Howard Zinn quotes Christopher Columbus to describe what happened in the Bahamas when Arawak men and women discovered Columbus and his sailors on their beach in 1492.
"They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawk's bells," Columbus wrote in his log. "They willingly traded everything they owned. They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of sugar cane. They would make fine servants. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
Reporting to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Columbus wrote that he'd hit the jackpot: "The Indians are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one would believe it. When you ask for something, they never say no." With additional funding and voyages, Columbus told the monarchs he could deliver a good return on their investment, "as much gold as they need, and as many slaves as they ask."
I could never figure out how one "discovers" something that's occupied. Jump in a car, kill the occupants, and then tell the cops that you "discovered" the car. There'll be no parades to celebrate the "discovery." The drums and trumpets only come out when the slaughter is sufficiently massive and officially blessed.
Ralph R. Reiland can be reached at email@example.com or .