Some of my ancestors were Irish, but I am not Irish.

Some of my ancestors were Indigenous, but I am not Indigenous.

That is the utterly mundane conclusion I have reached, after reflecting for some time on the history and heritage of my ancestors.

I may be a product of their genetic material, their choices, and their histories, but my identity is not their identity, and my community is not their community.

I am that I am because of the life I have lived and the communities I have been a part of, and I have never been a part of a Irish or an Indigenous community.

So what am I?

I am Canadian, I suppose. I was born in Canada. I am recognized by the state as Canadian, and other Canadians recognize me as Canadian. I have benefited tremendously from my membership in this community, and I have contributed to it as well.

True, I have no particular attachment to the Canadian community, broadly construed, or to what is sometimes said to be our Canadian identity, but my personal feelings are irrelevant.

Membership in a community isn’t determined by the feelings one has for it. It is determined by the relationships one forms and maintains. I may not feel any particular affinity for my community, but it does not change the fact that I am a part of it.

Until I am rejected by Canadians or accepted by some other community, I am Canadian, a settler, and all that it entails — for better and for worse.

2 thoughts on “Another utterly mundane conclusion: my place in our history

  1. Well said. I often feel little affinity though I know at the end of the day I am Canadian anyway.

    I wish more of us could acknowledge who we are without glorying in it; we owe the State nothing but the taxes which go to the common good. Our identity (far more important) is socially constructed independent of that relationship. Or should be…

    1. Thanks for your reply, Evan!

      “Independent” feels a little too strong too me because I have benefited greatly from the benefits provided by the State before it was hamstrung in recent years. I wouldn’t be who I am without the the public health care that brought me into the world, the social assistance that supported my mom, the public schools that taught me, and the scholarships that sent me overseas. Is my relationship to the State of paramount importance — probably not — but it is hard to imagine the me that I am emerging in many other times and places.

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