Thursday, January 15, 2015

American Samoa

The concept of an American Samoan intrigues me. A Dutch Bantu, a British Iroquois, a Chinese Roma, a Moslem Jew, (a Spanish Gibraltarian). It feels like an oxymoron, but in fact it is commonplace, today and throughout history. The explanation lies, however, not in cultural inter-marriage, but in economic and/or military imperialism; the explanation lies, that is to say, in the placing of emphasis on the first of the two named parties, which are not equal. A Dutch Bantu infers apartheid South Africa; a British Iroquois differed from a French or Spanish Iroquois in the conquest of America; the Chinese Roma and the Moslem Jew are my invention; and as to the Spanish Gibraltarian, placing it in brackets was not merely for literary effect but the sheer implausibility of its ever coming into being.

Which brings us back to American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean,
consisting of five principal islands and two coral atolls, south-east of the land that authentically names itself Samoa. Does this make it a country, or a state of the USA, or simply something that one owns because it is useful, like a yacht or a Picasso or a tourist resort or a tax haven? Ten of its fifty thousand citizens died fighting in US uniform in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan, and President Obama used federal funds, without needing Congressional approval, to help the clean-up after the 2009 tsunami. You decide. 

I wish there were more to say about American Samoa, but sadly there is none; so little indeed that the BBC website, which profiles every country in the world, and most of the non-countries too, does not include it, offering only someone else's uploaded footage of the tsunami floods, and not even appending a commentary. As to its politics. There are occasional arguments over whether the tuna you caught was really as big as you claimed, but that is hardly the same as Tienanmen or Tahrir Square; the debate over rugby versus cricket of course continues. Ernest Hemingway once visited. By all accounts the tuna that he caught really was that big. Hemingway preferred bullfights.


Marks For: 1

Marks Against: 9

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