Monday, April 15, 2013

14. To Brit Or Not To Brit - April, 2013

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with conflicting emotions about the British DNA coursing through my blood.

Through different branches of my Mother's ancestry, my family is from two different parts of England; Dover in the south, and York, in the middle.

Battling these ancestral branches are a Scottish branch and German one. Come to think of it, maybe it was the Scots and the Germans who separately moved from their own countries to York. Anyway, they all eventually left England for America, and here we are.

On my Father's side was his Father, a seafairing Norwegian who, by himself at 18, took a ship from Norway to Liverpool, England, another ship across the ocean to Montreal, a train across the American continent to Seattle, and within a couple months was in Alaska on a fishing boat.

My Father's Mother was also from Norway, but when she researched her own ancestry, became ebarrassingly distraught to discover a Jewish branch of the family.

For the record I want to reconcile my Grandmother's WASP and Jewish mixture. I embrace it...Mazel Tov!

The reason I am writing this, though, is to try to put my maternal British heritage into some sort of perspective.

As someone prone toward the creative arts, I have sometimes felt a strong identification with my British DNA.

Shakespeare wrote my favorite piece of writing. Charlie Dickens knocked off a few good yarns. And I would rather watch a British detecetive show than an American one any day of the week.

These pro-Brit feelings are on one side of the coin. On the other side - and this is where the problems arise - must be the Scottish part of me, unable to shake the "Trainspotting" line about Brits being 'wankers.'

Or maybe it is just my rebellious American side.

Several years ago, when my sister was studying at Leeds University in England, we began corresponding about the discovery that we apparently qualified for a British Coat-of-Arms.

It was fun for a while. we brainstormed and discussed Coat-of-Arms themes (a family of teachers, writers, and amateur athletes ought to inspire some interesting design ideas).
then something happened inside of me. Deep in the middle of this process of pursuing a British Coat-of-Arms, I woke up one morning and said, "You know what, screw the British! Screw their pretentious Coat-of-Arms bull----" (ryhmes with baseball mitt). And the idea died as quickly as it had been born.

So, now I ask myself, what's it going to be? Do I embrace the legacy of literature, theater, and culture? Or do I reject the questionble legacy of Empire, exploitation, and unintended political comedy? (And someone please tell me - what is the point of a 'royal family' in the 21st century?)

The only British politicians I have ever had any respect for were characters portrayed by Monty Python.

So, if someone can tell me who is currently the head of the Ministry Of Silly Walks, then maybe we have something to talk about.

Peter Wick
April 13, 2013