Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Anglo-Saxon Heritage

Jane Yolen posted the followed about Mitt Romney's arrival in London, because she was struck by the obvious racism:

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” a Romney adviser said when he and crew landed in London for the Olympics, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” Romney himself capitalized on that same thought a bit later.
I posted this:
Minnesota is full of Americans who identify with their Scandinavian heritage, their German heritage, their Czech or Italian or Balkan or African or Sioux or Ojibwe heritage... The big question in Minneapolis when I was kid was "what are you?' Which meant, are you Norwegian, Swedish, Danish...? In my experience, English descent Americans have been here so long that they no longer identify with the original homeland, unless they have some class or race issue. A lot of Anglophilia seems to me to be coded dislike of other Americans. (This is not entirely true. There are all kinds of people who love England for its literature, the way people love France for the food and the general Frenchness. But the American ruling class has identified with the English ruling class since the 19th century, and white racists obsess over the English language -- which they can barely speak -- and "our" Anglo-Saxon heritage.)

I just had a bone scan. The tech and I were chatting. She asked if my name was Norwegian. I said, "No. It's Icelandic." -- "Have you been to Iceland?" "Yes." "I've been to Norway," she said. Typical old-time Minneapolis conversation. No mention of our Anglo-Saxon heritage.
I could go on a long time about this, because I cannot stand the "special relationship" crap. It was invented by American Nativists, who could not stand the rest of the American people, and by the English ruling class in order to bond with a rising power as their empire declined.

In point of fact the US has fought two wars against the English: the Revolution and 1812, and in next war that was about American survival -- the Civil War -- the English backed the Confederacy. When the issue was freedom, England was our enemy. I feel a lot more kinship to France, because the French backed the American revolution -- granted for imperial reasons -- and because they fought their own revolution soon after ours, and because of Lafayette. Also, because of French food and general Frenchness.

Because England was the first industrial nation, it has a long and noble history of working class struggle. I admire that -- and the wonderful literature and an amazing, rich, mongrel language I am glad to have an my own. But the Anglo-Saxon stuff is crap. It's nineteenth century Germanic racism and imperialism.


Blogger Jordan179 said...

In point of fact the US has fought two wars against the English: the Revolution and 1812, and in next war that was about American survival -- the Civil War -- the English backed the Confederacy. When the issue was freedom, England was our enemy.

Actually, Britain stayed neutral in the American Civil War. You can thank Britain's Germanic heritage for that -- no, I mean literally, it was Prince Albert (who was German) who prevented the Trent affair from resulting in war between Britain and America. He exhausted himself from the effort and died: Queen Victoria never really forgave the USA for that.

Had Britain actually supported the Confederacy, the South would almost certainly have won her independence. With the Royal Navy on the side of the Confederates, the blockade of the South would have been impossible: indeed, the North would have been the section which would have had to worry about blockade.

Yes, Harry Harrison gets it all wrong! :)

6:10 PM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Jordan-- My impression is England backed the Confederacy covertly. I know it never entered into the Civil War formally.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

But I've been corrected elsewhere on this. So I will assume I'm wrong, until I do research.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

But I still don't buy any special relationship with England. Not for people in Minnesota, and not for me.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Foxessa said...

The parts of England that non-covertly backed the CSA were the ironclad war$hip builder$, and they were stopped by the British government with much diplomatic pressure put on them by St. James Mission, headed by Lincoln's appointee, Francis Adams, the grandson of President John Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams. A really good source as to how all this went down is that section in The Education of Henry Adams, who saw and was part of it as his father's private secretary.

There are those in this nation who do identify with their English roots very strongly though -- they naturally live in Maryland and Virginia. I can speak to this personally. I'm sure there are those in Massachusetts and some other New England states as well. But I've never lived anywhere in New England, whereas I have lived in various parts of the South, including Maryland.

And it's very contemporary, still. One of my best friends on the Eastern Shore for instance -- she lived in London as a young woman. She married a Western shore fellow, whose mother is English. She met his father while he was stationed there at the end of WWII. Her home is packed with things that were here MIL's -- and she's not the only person I met while living in Kent County -- named for England's Kent County -- whose home is filled with heirlooms from England, that first arrived as imports from the mother country in the early 18th century.

Love, C.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Foxessa said...

An important addendum to my comment:

As you may or my not know, Liverpool was the center of the British slave trade industry: its yards built the special needs slave voyage ships, its banks provided the loans and mortgages, its insurance industry underwrote the risks, its manufacturers provided the special needs implements from shackles and manacles to bits and chains.

Thus you would find in Liverpudlians, if not outright sympathy for the slave society that the rebels wished to spread throughout the hemisphere, at least an immediate recognition of the money to be made if the rebels were successful.

But Francis Adams and Lincoln's administration never recognized the rebels as a state, and neither did Britain's government nor France's nor any other nation.

Love, C.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Jordan179 said...

I would argue there are three reasons we could say that Americah particularly has an "Anglo-Saxon heritage."

The first is that Britain was the Mother Country of the Thirteen Colonies from which the United States of America originated. As you mention, this is a mixed relationship, since of course we fought the American Revolution and War of 1812 with Britain, and were still occasionally worried about the real possibility of winding up at war with Britain until at least the 1850's (when we chose not to "fight" over Fifty-Four Forty," a proposed western boundary line between America and Canada): some might argue at least 1917, when the event happened which cemented the Special Relationship.

This is the second reason. America and Britain have been mostly allied since America's entry into World War One. Britain has also been by far one of our most reliable allies, both back when they were the dominant partner in the relationship and, later on, when we dominated.

Finally, the third reason comes from a combination of the first and second. We share a common language, share many common experiences, and even share a lot of direct heritage after 1775 (Americans and Britons have frequently intermarried, as have Americans and Canadians).

So yes, even though I'm largely descended from non-Britons (my heritage is mostly Central and Eastern European, with a little Paiute Amerindian), I do think that America has an especially British heritage, more so than, say -- German, Russian, Jewish, or even (ironically) Amerindian. So I wasn't particularly offended by Romney's point, and consider the attempt to label it a "dog-whistle" to racists pure nonsense.

12:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home