Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.


As I mentioned in this post a few days back, I'm currently reading Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community by Wendell Berry, which was lent to me by my neighbor, Rob. The book is a collection of essays written in the early nineties, most revolving around the theme of respecting the land which provides our livelieness, something which Berry asserts that our current political, economic, and religious systems fail to do. He advocates secession from the currrent economic model of multi-national corporations and global trade, to small, local, self sufficient economies, which he feels would better treat both the earth and humanity. One essay in the book is about the first Gulf War and how that conflict, and others of its kind, are part an parcel of our current worldwide political and economic system. I certainly don't agree with everything he says, and I think there are some serious gaps in his picture of what a better society would look like, but the book is full of interesting and thought provoking ideas.

Oddly enough, given that introduction, this post isn't about any of those things, but was inspired by a thought taken from that essay on the Gulf War:

"War always encourages a patriotism that means not love of country but unquestioning obedience to power."

Over the past year, I seem to have found myself becoming more patriotic, or at least I’ve come to think of myself more as an American than I used to. Let me quickly point out that this change in attitude has nothing to do with support for the current war. Actually, in light of the war and its repercussions, I’m in a position where as I become prouder to be an American, I am also become less proud of America.

So what do I mean that I’m proud to be an American? It has nothing to do with at least knowing I’m free. I’m relatively free over here in the U.K., too, about as free as I am in the States. Instead, my pride is in the cultural identity of being American. That fact, as you have probably already thought, brings along another whole host of problems.

Hmm, this sentiment is becoming harder to express than I thought it would be. I think I need to restate my question. Why am I suddenly identifying as an American more than I used to? That’s easy to answer. I’m not Scottish. I’m not British. When I look at myself in the light of the people I am now surrounded by, I see that my primary defining characteristic is that I am American.

This is something I’d never really thought of back in the States. If I ever thought of “Americans” as a group, it was usually to point out how I was different from the status quo. “Americans are addicted to television. I don’t even have one.” “American Christianity is so shallow. I want to be different.” Stuff like that. Turns out though, there are other, more basic characteristics that define being American. I think that most Americans think in the same kind of way, even if different individuals come to different conclusions. I also think that most Americans share the same core values, even if they become manifest in different types of moral and ethical systems.

Now, the word “same” is relative in those two statements, and only makes sense, say, if you were suddenly plucked out of American culture and set down on the midst of a different one. I think that’s what has happened to me, an what has drawn out my awareness that I am, indeed, an American.

Why I should be proud, or ashamed, of that fact is another story for another day.

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