America at 400
USA Today notes that something has been lost in the hubbub over Queen Elizabeth’s visit: The reason she’s here.
America is 400 years old, if measured from the first surviving English settlement at Jamestown, Va., in 1607.
Now, I was born in Virginia. I moved back here five years ago. My dad grew up here. Both of us are even named “James.” But I can’t really get behind the notion that the founding of Jamestown marks the beginning of “America.”
If by “America” we mean “the United States,” then the beginning is the Declaration of Independence, or perhaps the fighting at Lexington and Concord. If we’re including the colonial phase, I’d start the clock with Columbus’ stumbling on the place and setting off European exploration and settlement. One could reasonably argue that, since we were established as a sovereign state by declaring — and ultimately securing — our independence from the British crown, that we should date our heritage only to the first English colony. But that was at Roanoke in 1585.
Both 1492 and 1776 have firm significance. Anything in between, though, strikes me as arbitrary.