A Welsh Study in "We"
Andrea met us at a bench in the shade, avoiding the summer heat that hadn't hit us up north yet. We walk from the coffee shop in the student union in a large North Carolina university in 90 degree heat. Students bustle between classes in shorts and sandals, two girls trade interpretations of the biblical account of Saul's conversion to proto-Christianity, and Andrea warns us of our coming trial: a steep hill between us and her administrative office.
With a well-weathered, americanized welsh accent, Andrea traced the contours of her experience of almost 3 decades in America as a transplant.
One of the more interesting parts of our conversation was the places where Andrea chose who she identified with. Her "we"s throughout our talk seemed strangely inconsistent, but there was a larger pattern that seemed to subconsciously reinforce her story of accidental Americanization. Her verbal choice of who to identify with tracked a clear and interesting path: Welsh Home - New Friends - American Community
Asking her about her community directly, surprisingly kept a wall up between her and the people she lived with. Most of her descriptions of the community centered her "we" on her household, for example about what her community does for work and how she feels in that milieu.
The first break in this to include Americans in the "we" came in our conversation about Republican friends, oddly enough.
Soon after this though, America at large worked its way into Andrea's "we" as politics forced a reckoning with the world as it was around her.
Still, as is to be expected, the transition of identity is not a complete switch. Having taken us on a journey through where "we" placed her, she threw a few curveballs, placing her back and forth between Britain and the US for parts of her perspective, especially in her foundational thoughts on a free society, and what freedom means at its core.
She threw one more in near the end, as she ventured to define Americans and ended up separating herself from them in the process of defining them.
The back and forth of identity pinned down a theme a bit that is difficult to notice in other interviews because of how subtle it can be. The concept of an American identity is a fluid one that can fade in and out for people depending on topic, situation, mood, and upbringing. In a country of different people with different values, as Andrea pointed out. Seeking a common set of American values may depend on situation more than anything else.