31 Mar 2007

“Commemorating” Jamestown

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This year is the four hundredth anniversary of the first successful English-speaking settlement in North America: the Jamestown Colony in Virginia. Those Johnny-Come-Lately Puritans arrived at Plymouth in 1620.

But, as Mona Charen explains, the contemporary intelligentsia find nothing to celebrate.

… emblematic of our troubled understanding of our past and our present discomfort with our national identity, the powers that be in Virginia have decided not to refer to (the anniversary events) as “celebrations.” Instead, they will be called commemorations. “You can’t celebrate an invasion,” declared Mary Wade, a member of the Jamestown 2007 organizing committee. The native people were “pushed back off of their land, even killed. Whole tribes were annihilated. A lot of people carry that oral history with them, and that’s why they use the word ‘invasion’ . . .”

Virginia is expecting many visitors to the reconstructed Jamestown settlement — and it is worth the trip. We’ve taken the children a couple of times. But the timid, apologetic tone of some of the exhibitions detracts from the experience. As Edward Rothstein reported in The New York Times, “The Indians, we read, were ‘in harmony with the land that sustained them’ and formed an ‘advanced, complex society of families and tribes.’”

Rothstein continues: “English society — the society that gave us the King James Bible and Shakespeare . . . is described as offering ‘limited opportunity’ in which a ‘small elite’ were landowners.” England, they tell us, suffered from social dislocation, unemployment, difficult working conditions, and so forth. The exhibit goes on to suggest that Virginia’s history evolved out of the “interaction” of three different cultures: British, Native American and African.

This sort of hokum has become de rigueur…

Read the whole thing.

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