I don't usually talk about this stuff, but ...

Politics The White House website has a curious feature -- an RSS feed of presidential remarks. It's curious because of its accuracy -- rather than simply reprinting the prepared copy, posts are made of the transcripts of what occurred, so if you look up President Bush's shambolic speech in front of the Queen from today, the amusing flub is there, all present and 'correct'. I'm not surprised The Daily Show can find their material so quickly.

It was the kind of speech that is usually deemed by the press as suitably stately for the occasion although it wasn't without the odd moment of surprise -- as in -- did he really say that? The most eye opening portion for me was:
"As liberty expanded in the British Isles, British explorers helped spread liberty to many lands, including our own. In May of 1607, a group of pioneers arrived on the shores of the James River, and founded the first permanent English settlement in North America. The settlers at Jamestown planted the seeds of freedom and democracy on American soil. And from those seeds sprung a nation that will always be proud to trace its roots back to our friends across the Atlantic."
My italics for emphasis obviously, but as soon as Bush said that I wondered what any Native Americans watching that might have to say about it. Did their ancestors really have freedom and democracy as the white man turned them out of their homes and lands using precisely the tyranny and terror that is mentioned later in the speech. Did the slaves? Oh and indeed when he says that us Brits 'spread liberty to many lands' isn't that just a nice way of saying 'empire building'?

Ancient history to be sure, but in using that history to emphasise the co-operation between the two nations, Bush's scriptwriters seem to make an insensitive misstep here, clearly forgetting that America's own chronology is far from squeaky clean and that those settlers, although initially sympathetic were in the end the first vanguard of an invading force that eventually overran an existing nation. I might have misunderstood, but it does have the implication of bringing civilization to those who apparently have none.

Sure, these are supposed to be simple remarks, but it's a shame that they had to be used in such an outright political way and indeed without a very clear thought about the implication of the words. It's a clear example of history being written by the 'winners' whose own misdeeds are quietly forgotten when necessary. I'm not knocking the sentiments you understand, it's just that I wish they could have been made more articulately and acknowledging certain inherent weaknesses even in another time of war.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:29 am

    Given how Bush is currently "bringing democracy and freedom" to Iraq, it's not surprising he'd be so callous about his own country's disenfranchised native population.