Sunday, June 27, 2010
Yesterday, I went to the local Scottish Games with my mother. We left late and had to leave early, so we missed the opening ceremonies and almost everything else. Basically, we had fish and chips for lunch and then went shopping. Well, we did hear all the pipe bands practicing, they can't be missed. I didn't get any good pictures at the Games, so when I got home I took this photo of some of the trinkets we purchased. The chocolate was all pretty melted by the time we got to the car, but hopefully, the taste won't be impacted.
I've never been to the Highland Games in Scotland, only here in the States. Here, there were kilts, pipes and Irn Bru. Many people had never heard of the latter. I think I tried it once when I lived there, but did not like it. I know some purists decry Highland Games in any country since they are a "recent" invention. I don't agree, traditions are not a stable and unchanging as many think they are. Besides, the Games are good fun!
Occasions like this lead me to think about Americans, heritage and identity. How many people at the Games had a connection to Scotland, how many just went for a nice day out? Most ethnic groups in this country have similar events, whether Greek, Polish, Mexican or German. Many Americans no matter what their ancestry will not hesitate to say "I'm Scottish" or "I'm Polish" even if the most recent connection to that country is over a century past. After having lived in Scotland, this really began to irritate me until I realized that what Americans usually meant by "I'm Scottish" was actually "I have ancestors from Scotland, isn't that cool!" or "I'm an American with Scottish ancestry." I just wish there was a better way of expressing than the simple, "I'm X". Oh well...
I am not the only person who puzzles over Americans and their use of identity and heritage. Several years ago, I reviewed Transatlantic Scots (see: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=12001) an investigation of Scottish heritage in America through the perspective of several disciplines. Chapter Seven on the Highland Games and Social Capital by Grant Jarvie, a sports historian might be of particular interest to Games enthusiasts. The collection is readable (but expensive, see if your local library can get it through inter-library loan) and may give you something to think about the next time you put on a kilt, go to a Burns Night Supper, or even the Highland Games.