In a message dated 4/9/97 5:20:03 AM, you wrote:
<<> Neil, what is an American? For most people it's an accident of birth.
> are born Americans, some become Americans, and some have American-ness
> upon them.
Quite true, and yet all three kinds of people have a connection to
the U.S.A., more so than to any other country (unless they are
> Some do whatever they can to emigrate to this place, hoping to
> find a promised land. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes
> the people who have lived here all their lives think that the grass is
> greener somewhere else.
Yes, but why do they think that? There's a whole world of American
folk-culture at their fingertips, for example. Don't they owe it to
themselves to learn a little about the nation they actually live in
before venturing to claim identity from a nation or nations which are far
away across the ocean? Don't you think it's pretty funny that some kids
who grow up in Ireland think, "Jesus this place is dull sometimes, I
wouldn't mind heading to the States or somewhere exciting?" People in
Europe find America exciting because it's different, which is also why you
find Europe (or one small corner of it) so exciting as well. But
ultimately unless you are going to move to a country and live the rest of
your life there, you are going to have to find belonging where you are at
the moment. If American life disturbs you, by all means move to Ireland
or Scotland -- some Americans do just that. It won't be what you expect,
but you might like it better. But if you do stay in the U.S., learn to
respect your own country, your own culture, or else you'll be eaten up
inside with unhappiness.
> We are not a melting pot, in the sense that we have somehow commingled our
> various heritages into a homogenous blend, but more like a fondue pot in
> which we have all been coated with a veneer of Americanism while retaining
> our heritage underneath it all. This says nothing about patriotism, but
> explains a lot about the tendency of most of us to identify with our roots.
And there's nothing wrong with that in the least. However, being an
Irish- or a Hispanic- or an African- or an Italian-American is going to
be, as the part after the hyphen implies, at least halfway about being an
American. You can be Irish-American, but if you're born and raised in
American then you're not going to experience "native" Irish culture, and
in fact the Irish themselves will hardly know what to make of you. I've
heard similar stories of black Americans moving to Africa and continuing
to live a life very separate from that of the "native" Africans. The
land itself, America, stamps the incoming cultures very thoroughly, so
much so that they become very different. Again, is this really a bad
thing? The Gaels in Cape Breton are different from the ones in Scotland,
for example, but this variety is pleasing and adds to the vitality of the
> Your definition of what makes a Celt is not necessarily one we all accept.
> It is a definition. That's all. I accept it about as well as you accept
> anything I say. I will grant that language is one attribute of
> but not the only one, nor should it be the one great deciding factor.
Many Irish-Americans who have chosen to learn their language would
> In many societies a person takes on the nationality of the parents, no
> where they are born. I have heard that a person can become an Irish
> now if their grandparent was Irish, or some such. That is a citizen, not
> merely an admission that they are Irish, and there is no demand that they
> speak Gaelic, unless I've been very ill-informed.
No, you're quite right. However, the fact that Irish has declined
so dramatically in the RoI is inevitably leading to the assimilation of
the Irish into the Anglo-American world. The way of life there is
changing rapidly, and the end of it can only be full entry into the
global consumer culture. Already you can see the difference between the
generation that were young in the 1970s and those which are young in
1990s (in Belfast at any rate); the latter are far more consumer-oriented,
far more interested in the products of international mass culture.
Language *would* provide a barrier against this, if they still had it,
but unfortunately for most of them it's long gone. The result is that
they lead lives indistinguishable from those of people in urban centres
in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand; what little local
flavour remains is increasingly being seen as old-fashioned and a little
> I at one time spoke French quite fluently, yet I never considered myself
> French, nor do I have an affinity for their land or traditions, although I
> like the wine, brandy and some of the cheeses. I just happened to like the
> language. Perhaps a Norman in the woodpile somewhere. Even the
> required in it to write poetry, particularly sonnets, in the language was
> more than a mechanical achievement. There was no attachment.
I'm not suggesting you "pick up" Gaelic the way you would acquire
French in school. I'm saying that, if you want so badly to feel that
you're at the heart of Celtic culture, you should take a look at the most
Celtic of cultural expression, which involves the languages. If you
consider yourself a Celt then obviously Gaelic or Welsh will be far more
congenial to you than French ever was.
> By the way, I have never claimed to be a Druid. I am not.
You have however (and interestingly enough) claimed to be in Mensa,
which jibes uneasily with your apparent inability to learn a Celtic
> I am, however, Celt enough to have been awarded the title of Dame Commander
> in the Noble Order of Tara three years ago
> by the late Lord Laurence Durdin-Robertson, 21st Baron Strathloch of
> Enniscorthy, Eire for service to the Land.
What the hell is that?!? (Service to *what* land? To California?)
> I'll take his word for it over yours any day, in any language.
Good Lord, you actually believe that your acquisition of some
preposterous invented title makes you more of a Celt than someone who
actually is familiar with genuine Celtic culture? You really are lost in
your own fantasies, I'm afraid.
Please, I urge any of you out there who live outside Scotland,
Ireland or Wales not to embarrass yourselves in this way by pretending
that *you* are the "true" Celts and that all us "unspiritual" people who
merely happen to have been born and raised in a Celtic country and
culture, and who may also speak an actual Celtic language, are just
somehow frauds. It won't wash. It'll only give us a good laugh.
Neil A. McEwan
Lord High Commander of the Noble Order of East Belfast
(title granted by the 18th Earl of Ballymacarett, a/k/a
Justin McAteer, for services rendered in picking up the
fish suppers for him on Friday nights, and for lying to
his Ma about his whereabouts)>>
Neil, I love that signature! On the subject of Celticness/Americanness,
someone recently asked me "Why is Celtic pronounced with a hard C whereas the
Boston Celtics pronounce their name with a soft C?" My only explanation was
that America likes to "Americanize" or "Anglicize" everything. True?