Friday, December 13, 2013


What is  my culture? We Americans of English descent are discouraged from embracing our cultural identity.  Any thought in that direction is considered to be racist, supremacist.  We are encouraged to embrace cultural celebrations focused on cultures such as Native American, Latin American, African, African American, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Armenian.  We are pressured to love such things. If we don't love them, we are considered racist.

We are told that as white Americans, one of the things that is wrong with us is that we see the way we are as the norm, rather than as one of many possible cultural expressions.  However, we aren't allowed to think otherwise, as we get called racist if we embrace our own cultural identity.

My sister lives in Brazil, and brought her Brazilian fiance to visit her family and friends in the northeastern United States.  He was eager to learn about our culture.  Do we even know what our culture is?

As we ate oatmeal for breakfast, she explained, "Oatmeal is a traditional New England breakfast.  Some people eat it every day.  It's good for the cold weather because it stays warm in your tummy until lunch."

What foods are associated with my culture?  The things that come to mind are associated with particular occasions or regions, foods like cranberry sauce, baked beans, pumpkin pie, Boston brown bread, and New England clam chowder.  But the things we eat every day, that's what our culture really eats.

Breakfast: cold cereal with milk; toast with butter or jelly; bagel with cream cheese; orange or grapefruit juice; half a grapefruit; eggs; bacon; muffins; coffee.

Lunch: sandwiches with cold cuts, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Supper: chicken, beef, fish, potatoes, rice, bread, rolls, pasta, vegetables.

Summer celebrations: barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers; potato chips; potato salad; soda; beer; cookies; brownies; corn on the cob; watermelon.

Fall, winter, and spring celebrations: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, squash, cranberry sauce, pie.

Many of these foods are not foods I like to eat.  That's because I'm describing the overall white American culture.  People in that culture do things I don't do, like watch television, go to malls, and play computer games.  I have always lived in this culture.  To some extent, it is my culture.  But I have also always lived in a subculture which is a better match for my preferences.  I'm not sure there's a good name for this subculture.  Many people around me identify as "folkies," but I don't think an interest in folk music is mandatory.  I think "crunchy granola" is a more encompassing term, though it is rather awkward and silly.

This subculture includes interests such as:
  • Folk music and folk dance, especially as a participant.
  • Food: legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, organic, locally grown, not overly processed, not too much sugar.  
  • Beverages: water, juice, tea (herbal and non-herbal), coffee, beer. No soda.
  • Sustainable living, permaculture, organic gardening, Transition movement, renewable energy, composting, bicycling.  
  • Low-tech outdoor recreation such as walking, kayaking, and cross country skiing.
  • Egalitarian ideals.
  • Books, learning, education, science.
  • Atheists, agnostics, humanists, pantheists, pagans, liberal Christians, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Jews, and Buddhists.
  • An aversion to large corporations, complex technology, and highly commercialized environments.  No eating at McDonald's or shopping at WalMart.
  • Alternative medicines, herbal remedies.  
My culture identity is a combination of different things.  My roots reach back to England and Ireland, so traditions from those places are a part of my past.  My ancestors came to New England from England in the 1600s and from Ireland in the 1800s, so my culture includes the traditions of New Englanders of Irish and English descent.  I have lived in the northeastern United States all my life, so that is the backdrop for everything I've learned and experienced.  I grew up in the "crunchy granola" subculture I've described, and have chosen to continue to live within this subculture.  

These are my roots, the traditions from which I come.  This is my culture. This is who I am.  These roots are to be honored and celebrated.  That does not mean my culture is better than any other.  It does not mean that people from my culture never did anything bad.  But being a druid means understanding yourself as connected to your land, your history, and your tribe.  

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