Neil Alasdair McEwan wrote:
> However, the United States of America also produced two of the wisest
> men in history in Thoreau and Whitman, and moreover their wisdom is
> characteristically American as well. It's not that America has no
> culture or that Americans are foolish, but that the incredible richness
> of American culture and wisdom is buried under the slag-heap of its own
> pop culture and affluence. This accounts for the number of Americans who
> go looking far afield in other countries for what they can find in their
> own backyard, if they choose to look there. A few weeks back in the
> middle of the night I was watching a PBS documentary on the working-songs
> sung by black railroad workers in the South, and it seemed to me that
> these were as good as any of the waulking- or boat-songs you'd find among
> the Gaels. And yet unfortunately white America may be more tempted to
> identify with the waulking- rather than the railroad-song. I think all
> Americans should take pride in their own country first, just as I take
> pride in Nova Scotia and Canada first -- despite the vocal America-bashers
> you meet everywhere, the U.S. is still widely admired, and for good
What you say Neil is perfectly true but there are a few other things
to consider. Americans have always felt a bit inferior to Europeans, like
little brothers waiting to grow up. Thoreau and Whitman do not have the
status of Shakespeare even though their words probably hold more relevance
for people today than those of the much-revered bard.
Americans are also acutely aware that all but the Native Americans
originated from somewhere else (and, in point of fact, even the native people
seem to have had their origins in Asia). Being very curious people, many of
us are led to investigate those origins. Many wonder what their lives would
have been like if the course of history had been different. For some, this
quest becomes an obsession.
Thirdly, the call of the foreign, the exotic, is very strong. I
often laugh at the idea that as I sit at home reading about Scotland and
listening to Celtic music, my penpal sits in his home in Scotland reading
about the U.S. Civil War and listening to Merle Haggard. As I believe
you said in another post, many of the Scots and Irish of this generation
are more attuned to global pop culture than to their countries' traditional
cultures. Each of us seems fascinated with the other.
Many Americans on Celtic-L talk about wanting to live in Ireland
or Scotland. Many Scots and Irish lust after an American "green card"
which would allow them to live in the U.S. I guess the grass does look
greener on the other side of the fence. It is probably just human nature.