Monday, May 02, 2005

On Becoming a Member of a Clan

Last Christmas, while visiting with my family, my aunt approached me with the suggestion that I become active in the family clan, the MacIntyres. For those of you that don't know much about Scottish clans, well, count me in your company. As far as I can tell, there are many Scottish names and clans that have documented histories and contemporary associations dedicated to keeping the names and their heritages alive. My aunt, a daughter of a Macintyre, is quite active in the MacIntyre Clan and mentioned that the clan is having a hard time recruiting younger members—particularly ones for leadership roles. Though never out rightly saying so, she intimated that if I expressed an interest, I would more or less be assured a spot on the clan's leadership council. (In this case, how could it not be nepotism?)

At the time, I demurely deferred decision-making. Recently, however, I received a packet in the mail filled with information about the clan and was reminded of my earlier promise to think it over. There are at least two different aspects that I have to consider.

One: the costs. Becoming an active member in the leadership requires an annual commitment of time and money. There are two annual events that must be attended: the annual family get-together and an annual meeting of the clan's governing body. Both are held at different times of the year, usually six months apart, and both would require airfare and hotel costs. The costs are not prohibitive, but I am not exactly a rich person.

Two: the decision to self-affiliate with a clan. At first blush, the notion of joining a clan seems odd. For good or for bad, I am not consciously or actively aware of my ancestral roots. Like most white men in this country, I come from a fair mix of European ancestry far enough in my past to have eliminated all but the faintest connection to the "homeland." Instead, my history is America's and my culture is what we, as a people, are trying to figure out and enact as we go along. Despite this, however, I can apparently pinpoint some connection to not just a country, but to a clan and its name. How weird it would be, though, to proclaim allegiance to just a name--no matter how old and fabled! I can fathom dedication to an ideal, country, or family; I can’t do that as easily for a family name. So, despite--to some degree--the fact that I share some familial blood with these other folks, I don't expect to have a connection that might invite the same sort of love, sacrifice, and unity that I would expect from my parents or siblings. A person only has so much loyalty to offer, can I give up some of it to a mere name?

Regardless, by the MacIntyre's standards, I can call myself a MacIntyre. And people in this country have been doing so for many years through annual gatherings and festivals--not bad things to do. But, according to my aunt's telling, not as many are choosing to do so these days. It seems that this old family name needs some new blood--just they type I could offer. So, even though I have never given such things too much thought, I think there is something poignant about a bunch of older folks struggling to keep the sap running through an ageing trunk connected to fewer and fewer flowering branches. In the end, joining wouldn't be a painful thing to do and it might even be neat to see kilts at different scenic places throughout the country.

Any thoughts?


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