If it wasn’t for us…

Extract from Gary Younge’s new book Stranger in a Strange Land

I have always found America exciting; but, for better or worse, never exceptional. Its efforts at global domination seemed like a plot development in the narrative of European empire rather than a break from it. Even as the French lambasted secretary of state Colin Powell’s presentation to the Security Council, protesters in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, waved American flags and placards saying: “Bush please help Ivory Coast against French terrorism.” There was precious little moral high ground to go round. Yet everyone, it seemed, was making a stake on it.

So it was with great bemusement that I found myself having to absorb abuse from white, rightwing Americans, who harked back to the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the second world war to justify military aggression in Iraq. They badgered me as though their own reference points represented the sole prism through which global events could possibly be understood. As if the struggle for moral superiority between Europe and the US could have any relevance to someone whose ancestors were brought to the Americas as slaves and whose parents and grandparents lived through the war under European colonisation.

“If it wasn’t for us, you would be speaking German,” they would say. “No, if it wasn’t for you,” I would tell them, “I would probably be speaking Yoruba.”

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