My hands turned red approximately one second after this photo was taken and never really recovered.Love this row of colorful houses. Can I have the middle one, please?Glove hand problems. I need to get some of those digital gloves that you can touch your phone screen with!Home again, warming up.
I am an American. Nothing has made me more aware of this fact than living and studying abroad in Germany for an extended period of time. I am growing increasingly aware of how much my nationality matters and, conversely, how little it matters in the big picture.
In my studies, we are currently focusing on the concept of nationalism– a buzz word if ever there was one in our current media. I get asked about Trump on a daily basis (in the grocery store, in line for the bathroom, in my own home), and the topic of nationalism is never far behind. Germans are hyper aware of the dangerous sides of nationalism because of, well, history. You’d be hard pressed to find a German flag waving from a front porch, or to hear the national anthem sung in a public place. So naturally, I have begun to ask myself the questions: is nationalism always bad? Can it be good? And how does this newly emerging term localism factor into the discussion?
I read a New York Times article from columnist David Brooks that shed some light on the subject. He says:
Though we’ve moved around a lot, my family has a clear home base. If you start at East 15th Street in Lower Manhattan and walk two miles south, you will have walked by where my great-grandfather had his butcher shop, where my maternal grandfather practiced law, where my father lived during high school, where I went to elementary school and where my youngest son now attends college. That’s five generations within two miles. I feel a magical attachment to that neighborhood. The blocks and street names enchant in my mind. And yet I have to say my strongest attachment is to the nation, to the United States. You could take New York out of my identity and I’d be sort of the same. If you took America out of my identity I’d be unrecognizable to myself. What does this national attachment feel like? It feels a bit like any other kind of love — a romantic love, or a love between friends. It is not one thing that you love but the confluence of a hundred things. Yes, it is the beauty of the Rockies, but it is not just the land. It is the Declaration of Independence, but not just the creed. It’s winning World War II and Silicon Valley, but it is not just the accomplishments. It is the craziness, the diversity, our particular brand of madness.
Like Brookes, I feel a fierce attachment to and pride in my American identity. And yet, I also notice how I often distance myself from America in conversations about certain topics while abroad– “No, I don’t agree with America, I’m not like that!”
Writer Taiye Selasi proposes another approach. She speaks to “multi-local” people, who feel at home in many places. “How can I come from a country?” she asks. “How can a human being come from a concept?…my experience is where I am from. Instead of where are you from, what if we asked, where are you a local?”
This concept makes sense to me on some levels as well. I feel a deep attachment to certain places in America: the California coast with her rugged cliffs and Red Wood trees, the corn fields of Iowa where we spent holidays driving tractor and combine, the hot planes of Texas where I ate BBQ and attempted to understand the rules of football. I have no deep attachment to all fifty of the United States. I’ve haven’t spent much time on the East Coast or in the North West or the South West. I have, however, had experiences all over Germany– in Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Hildesheim, Weinheim, Münster. And yet, to say I am a local of Germany above an American still feels odd and lacking in a major way. I can study here in Germany, but my American passport and the fact that German is not my mother tongue prevent me from gaining meaningful employment after graduation. Can I really be a local of a place that prevents me from participating in that crucial part of life we call career? Sure, I have dear friends here, but the fact that I did not grow up in the German school system excludes me from understanding so much of their common experience on an intrinsic level.
I’m not sure I could ever do away with the concept of nationality completely and replace it with localism or vice versa.
Perhaps the trick to strike a meaningful balance between the two. To validate overlapping experiences that create a richer identity than any single one could on its own. To rob someone of their American identity is to rob them of shared history, culture, and collective community. But to confine someone to the label of their country– to ignore their localized experiences completely– is equally dangerous. Nationalism has been one of the great sources of joy and stability in my life, and is what allows me to move comfortably though this wide world in many ways. But too much, or a tainted strain, can prove dangerous.
I am an American. I am a local of Germany. I am many, many things. We all are.
So I ask you: Where are you a national, and where are you a local? And what do your answers to those questions reveal about you?
Many waffles were consumed.
Thanks to Melinda for the pretty photos 🙂
- Today I saw an old man looking at his phone with a magnifying glass.
- Weeping willows.
- Receiving snail mail.
- That feeling when you are in class and actually learning something new.
- Orange leaves on the sidewalk.
- When my little bro calls me just to ask about my first day of school.
- First days of school.
Happy 60th birthday to my father! Is it too soon to say ‘my old man’? ;p Even though it is cliche, I seriously don’t know what I would do without you, Dad. There are days when I get so down on myself and think I just can’t do this anymore. And when that happens, you are always the person I turn to first to cheer me up. You have an unfailing optimism that astounds me time and time again.
You are the best example of loyalty, commitment and unconditional love in my life. I miss you and with I could be with you, but I hope you have a stellar day and don’t work too hard!
All those cold, old, crumbling cities
Full of new, blue, blossoming hearts.
I was sorting through some photos from this past summer and realized there were a few gems I hadn’t yet shared on the blog. I like to upload them here to keep them safe because after my computer hard drive died a few months ago, I am paranoid about losing them!! Above is Trey and I at the Rangers game for my little brother’s birthday 🙂I worked as Meagan’s aide this summer. She is the sweetest! This is us at a coffee shop.Drinking beer in 100 degree heat…am I a Texan now or what?My sweet daddy-o’s birthday celebration!!!Late night jam sessions in the car.The suburbs in all their glorySomeone turned 25….old!!!! ;p
My friend got some photos developed from her trip to Minnesota, where we met for our other friend’s wedding. They turned out so beautiful!At the Baylor football game. We lost in a big way but we sure had fun!Isaac and I are considering running for office in 2020. The Oval Office looks good on us, don’t you think?
Have a good one, friends.