Friday, 24 November 2006

God Bless America !

Thanksgiving yesterday. That other holiday of sentimentality, over-indulgence …and turkey.

The holiday commemorates the puritan settlers in Massachusetts being provided with food to survive their first New England winter. It would seem that the pilgrims were not particularly effective farmers and had to depend on the neighbouring Wampanoag Indians to provide the food.

This generosity was then repaid by stealing their land, killing many of them in wars of conquest and introducing them to smallpox and syphilis, both unknown until the Europeans arrival. The event was later decreed a public holiday by George Washington to give thanks (to God, not the Indians) for the founding of the nation

But it is a classic instance of history being re-written. This started after the North won the civil war and has been continued by the neo-cons of the Religious Right.

The first settlers in the area that became the USA were not puritans fleeing religious persecutions but Elizabethan merchants and adventurers (with only a whisker of legality separating them from pirates), and disgraced libertine courtiers. And that’s just the White Anglo Saxon Protestants. No mention of the (Catholic) French or Spanish, or the African slaves and European indentured servants who were the basis of the colonial economy.

And when the thirteen colonies became a nation and a constitution was written; the pilgrims were of far less significance than the patrician merchants and planters of Virginia and the Carolinas. Their ideology was more influenced by the rationalism of the Enlightenment than Puritan Protestantism.

Alarm bells start to ring when any nation claims that it has a special mission ‘under God”. This ‘manifest destiny’ has been used to justify:

• Acts of genocide against the native peoples of America.
• The Monroe Doctrine’s claim to intervene in the affairs of neighbouring nations.
• The Cold War and wars against independent nations like Vietnam
• The crusade against Islam.

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