Not the New Year’s sort. No, after obsessing over the whole cultural appropriation/not cultural appropriation question, I’ve come to a sort of resolution on it.
Here’s where I’ve ended up: I am going to keep on doing what I do.
I’m not trying to be insensitive. Far from it. One of the bloggers who raised this question in my mind originally said something that began to settle my feelings: “Find something in your own culture – your family, your city, your country – to like.” Which sounds really insensitive, but planted the seed of an idea in my brain. I thought a lot about my family, which is where my own personal culture came from. And then I realized that my family cultures are something of a mashup – English from my Dad (painfully obvious when spending time with friends from English families), Texan from my mom (don’t laugh – Texan is a distinct cultural subgroup in the U.S.), and more than that, a very heavy amount of various other cultures. So my entire culture is based on cultural exchange.
That’s the key term – exchange.
The reason Americans have such a difficult time identifying a unique culture is that we try to find culture that is distinctly different from all other cultures, and that’s nearly impossible if you know what you’re looking at. American culture is made up of generations of cultural exchange and appropriation. My family culture is an extreme example of this (skewing heavily to the exchange end of things), but it’s very typically American. You pick and choose what you like. You keep what feels right, you drop what doesn’t, you’re always searching for new things and new experiences (again, typical of my own cultural experience, not necessarily all Americans). So in order to be true to my family culture, I have to be in a constant state of exchange and learning with people I meet.
It’s taken me a long while to finish this post. The things I read hit me rather hard, and I’m slowly figuring out how I actually fell about them, and how they’ve changed my views on things. I spoke at length with my mother, who said that I was dwelling on the opinions of a small group of people, and shouldn’t let it get to me. On one hand, I agree, and on the other, I know that there is value in some of those arguments.
Mostly, though, it has shaken my resolve to become involved with a temple community, because I’m more afraid now than I ever was about what people will think of me. So I’m doing a lot of reflection and meditation (plus reading and studying), and I hope that at the end of it, I’ll have achieved a sort of equilibrium, where I’m aware of these views but don’t let them prevent me from following a spiritual path.