Growing up in the States, I slept through my American history classes. American civilization had no patina like European or world history. Teachers eulogized the heroics of double-chinned white guys who once lived somewhere a thousand miles east of our flat midwestern city. Paul Revere’s “The Redcoats are coming!” was the refrain of too many pithy poems mimeographed in smudged purple by teachers’ assistants, then passed around class.
Redcoats were bad, Redcoats were greedy. Redcoats were the British, who wanted to take America away from those to whom it rightfully belonged — the colonists, our forefathers [never mind that the continent didn’t really belong to any Europeans at all, or that all my ancestors were still miserable in the old country rather than in the US where they’d flee a century later].
Australia had the Redcoats too, and they had them at the same time that we did. They built buildings here in the same Edwardian/Georgian styles I’ve seen in Boston, in Liverpool, even on Shamian Dao, that strange little European island smack in the middle of Guangzhou.
I step across these Redcoat murals as I walk to the train station, as I walk to buy fresh groceries from this fertile country. It’s an upside down deja-vu every time. Melds childhood stories from the north into history here at the bottom of the world. I get a kick out of walking over the flattened bodies of these British soldiers, brothers of those we kicked out of my country centuries ago.