A word on Scottish American Culture and the Military

As mentioned below, I was at the Scottish Games and Gathering this weekend. I do have a Scottish heritage, but only a little. My family is an eclectic mix of nationalities, including German, English and (don’t tell anyone) French. But it is amazing just how much my small Scottish heritage has influence me and so many like me.

It is no secret to anyone who has studied the demographics of military service that the South is overrepresented in the military. It isn’t surprising in the least to learn that many of the hundreds of thousands of Scots-Irish who came to America settled in Appalachia and the South. The Scots have for centuries had a warrior culture. Through much of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, the Scots-Irish were the shock troops of the British Empire. And many of the Scots-Irish immigrants to our nation, while eagerly adopting an American identity, held on to many of the tenets of their culture- a rugged individuality, a fierce attachment to personal weapons, distrust of central government, a strong sense of duty to their community, and a fine, sometimes over-pronounced sense of personal honor. These traits were so deeply ingrained in their communities that to a large extent they inform these communities to this day, regardless of the heritage of the individual members. Many of these traits are conducive to seeing military service as an honorable profession. This isn’t to say that someone without this background will not make a good soldier, or choose not to serve. Nor is it to say that all Americans with a Scots-Irish heritage will serve or view the military kindly.  It merely points to a propensity.

Virginia Senator James Webb and I don’t agree on much, politically. He’s a former Reagan Republican who has gone over to the Democrats. He has taken political positions with which I disagree rather vehemently. Having said that, he also wrote a book several years ago that shed a great deal of light on the influence of the Scots-Irish immigrants on our culture. I would heartily recommend that anyone with even a passing interest take the time to read “Born Fighting.”

In many of the places I travel in real life, people (especially younger folks) who learn of my military background look at me like I’ve got two heads and three eyes. They just can’t comprehend what it might be like to serve. That isn’t the case at the Scottish Games. While veterans may not have been in the majority there, there were a heck of a lot of them, to the point where my meager contributions to the national defense were utterly unremarkable. Very often at the games, you’ll see a gentleman (or even a lady) who wears his kilt and a khaki shirt with his ribbons and qualification badges from his time in the service. It is so common,  I didn’t even think to get a picture of someone attired that way. There’s even the Scottish American Military Society.

I find it interesting that in these times where “Diversity” is seen as a noble goal for its own sake, and the celebration of virtually every ethnic heritage is mandated by law or proclamation, little attention is paid to one of larger influences shaping our culture. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the adoption of Scottish culture to the exclusion or denigration of any other, but a little recognition would be nice.

2 thoughts on “A word on Scottish American Culture and the Military”

  1. You know, I’ve always been high on LEGAL immigration. Having said that, I like it when folks integrate into our culture while retaining the roots of theirs. Its what makes the US what it is. The Italians, Germans, Irish, eastern Europeans etc. have all joined us yet keep their heritage alive. That’s the way I think it should be. IMHO.

  2. Hear, hear. I finished Born Fighting about a couple of months ago and was so impacted by it, I referenced it in my July blog (http://bennett-celtic-art.blogspot.com/). What worries me is that this Scottish-ness that helped make our nation great is “dissed” so much by today’s pop culture. Standing up for what you believe in, developing a sterling character, and doing what’s right even if it’s hard – these responsibilities just don’t seem to be on our collective to-do list these days. I hope I’m just being unnecessarily pessimistic, but I rather doubt it.

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