Friday, 30 March 2012

How to be American - and why you probably cannot be English unless you already are


I think people changing their nationality is absurd in principle really, like trying to change ones mother and father. Perhaps you can become American but that is the exception that proves the rule for Americans are a nation in a different sense from other nations and not an ethnicity or race. But even there everyone except the WASPs claims to be Italian or Chinese or whatever however many generations back and when they are manifestly as Italian or Irish as the desk on which I type this. Only the WASPs therefore are fully American.

T.S. Eliot and Henry James became British subjects as gestures, because Americans expect newcomers to their country to become American but they always remained American, were never at all British. Only had they come to the UK as children would it have been possible.

I also think to be fully American you need to be Protestant. You certainly can be a deist like the founding fathers or Lincoln, or an agnostic or an atheist, but a Protestant deist, agnostic or atheist. (Protestant atheists are quite different from Catholic, Jewish or Muslim atheists.) Protestants who convert to other religions also remain American. But no-one can say Catholics like the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Mowbray, Chris Patten or David Lodge are not English sans raproche. 

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