My teachers at school in England
never told me that America had a revolution.
They never quoted Winston Churchill
saying I do not admit, for instance,
that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America,
and none of them mentioned Siegfried Sassoon’s
letter expressing his belief that World War One
was being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power
to end it, and that it had become a war
of aggression and conquest. Instead, we learned
about Dr. Livingstone taking an English god
to the African jungle, said the Lord’s Prayer
each morning (although I only moved my lips),
and filed back to class past the Jewish boys
who came later to assembly after chanting
in their classroom ghetto. Nobody mentioned Ghandi.
Colonialisation was presented as a gift
to the uncivilised. We heard about Dunkirk
but not Dresden. My relatives in Austria
wouldn’t talk about the Nazis, except for one uncle
whose hand became a holy relic when Hitler
took hold of it, although he only talked about
the Autobahn system and omitted the rest.
We watched westerns until Apache was a word
as dirty as terrorist today. Propaganda became inseparable
from Communist, while American sitcoms
invaded us with visions of prosperity. My father
used to say There’ll never be another war
now they’ve got the bomb
and I looked forward to a world united, but couldn’t see
far enough to know that when it came that world
would fly corporate logos beside flags and spend so much
on weapons it would be wasteful not use them.
People cross its borders to find work instead of culture
and learn their history by experience
that clings to them like sweat stained shirts.