Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everybody Loves Europe

The other night I was watching "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Yes, I watch "Everybody Loves Raymond." I actually enjoy the show quite a bit, along with other stalwarts of white comedy like "Frasier", "That 70s Show", "Seinfeld" and "Friends." I may be a Raving Black Lunatic, but my sense of humor is of mixed ancestry.

Anyway, I'm watching the show and it's the episode where the family travels to Italy. In that episode, Raymond initially pouts about the entire trip, before finally being won over by Italy's Old World charm. At one point he exclaims that it's so great that everything in Italy is so old in comparison to America where everything feels like it was built yesterday.

That made me pause.

It's not that it's untrue. Many countries in Europe, at least those that weren't decimated by wars, have some pretty ancient structures. What made me pause was the idea that America is a "new" nation.

In some respects, there is obvious truth in that sentiment. America was only established as a country well after most European nations had taken turns being worldwide empires, and long after China, the Middle East and certain countries in Africa had staked a claim to the center of the world.

But, there is a long history in this country. True, this land's original inhabitants didn't build sprawling cities or conquer the known world, but they left behind monuments and artifacts that show they were here. They clearly had developed societies that took a much different approach to life than their counterparts to the North and South. Knowing this, it felt like what Raymond was saying was that "American history that matters is so young."

That makes me sad. I'm saddened that so many people discount those societies that didn't create their greatness on the backs of slaves and other forced labor. I'm sad that so many are willing to ignore the conditions that allowed "civilization" to proper in favor of glorifying what was built. And, ultimately, I'm sad that so many people have decided that the accomplishments of the largely brown people who inhabited this land before white folks even knew it existed don't matter at all.

I don't love that at all.



spacemonkey said...

The same sort of attitudes are prevalent amongst white people here in South Africa. Too much pretending there was 'nothing' here when the first white people arrived in 1652. People have been living here for 3.5 million years, there are 3,000 year old rock paintings and there was trade with China about 700 years ago. Not new at all, but mostly ignored by a certain part of the population.

Big Man said...

Yeah, that's the justification for rape and pillage.

"Well they were using it wrong!"

But it was theirs. You took it. And you kept it through violence and intimidation. It's funny how the same people who took something for other people, can get so up and arms when their "property" is repurposed when things change.

Like the white farmers in Rhodesia and other areas. You would think the descendants of conquerors would be more pragmatic about being conquered.

spacemonkey said...

I love the 'they were using it wrong' argument. It's just the inconsistency that bothers me -- no-one seems too happy when I suggest confiscating people's cars if they don't drive them often enough.

I'm hoping the land issues over here are sorted out in a less violent and more equitable way than Zimbabwe (ex-Rhodesia). That, unfortunately, will be partly dependent on my fellow white South Africans being willing to admit to profiting from injustice and make some big concessions.

Raving Black Lunatic