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Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

Born Fighting: Our Scots-Irish heritage

Born Fighting: Our Scots-Irish heritage

I love the diversity of people groups we have here in America: Each heritage has various special approaches to life that it can contribute to the society in general.

As with so many Americans (and those in many other cosmopolitan melting-pot countries), I’m somewhat of an amalgam of cultural backgrounds. Our family DNA test tells us, though, that we’re all European in descent --- which surprises me, because we’re so unusual in our looks and attitudes and preferences. (Especially what seemed to be a Jewish element --- I’m jealous of our brother-in-law in that regard!)

But there is one primary part of our family heritage that does make a lot of sense to me: We are significantly descended from several lines of Scots-Irish, the lowland Scots such as our own Armstrong, McLeod, and Eakin families that migrated from dire poverty and persecution to Northern Ireland, then, for much the same reasons, to America.

In recent years I’ve gotten into reading books about the history and nature of the Scots-Irish; and many books about early American history include notable insights about our clans’ roles in establishing this nation. Two whole books I’ve read address the topic in full form: The Scotch-Irish, by James G. Leyburn, and Born Fighting, by our former Virginia Senator Jim Webb.

It makes me proud to see that there probably wouldn’t be a United States of America unless the Scots-Irish settlers had had a very long history of difficulty with the English, and that the genius of George Washington included an ability to coordinate the Scots-Irish rebels with the English American colonists for common cause against the crown.

I’d thought for a long time that sundry character traits and world-views in our family were especially handed down as a family thing; then as I’ve read and observed I become more aware of the very strong Presbyterian influences in those traits; then again, I’ve found that the whole cultural view we have had passed down is one from southwestern Pennsylvania Scots-Irish settlers! It’s all unified, and it’s a strong part of who I am --- and perhaps what I can share with others through the fabric of my living and my creating.

A primary trait involves sincerity, honesty, integrity, truth-seeking. We were drilled, in the normal talk and action of life while growing up, to put absolute priority on reality and what really mattered to God, and to stick by it. No inappropriate persuasion or manipulation was ever to happen. Believe what’s right, and stick by it at all costs, and say what you mean and mean what you say. Period. (Of course we have all failed in many ways, but that was the standard.)

And fight we will, in one way or another, if we see obvious dishonesty or injustice. It is fundamentally repugnant to us. Well, and simply wrong. Honesty is the best policy, regardless of painful consequences. And a sovereign God is our source for this, so there can’t be any persuasion or manipulation that should stand before that ultimate source.

So… if we hear a news story or a religious or political assertion… we are inwardly compelled to ask, ‘Says who?’ Is it a truly authentic source? Do I detect a hidden agenda? Is it a lie? (The world is filled with lies, you know.) And, based on that thousand years of our ancestors’ dealing with the English (I speak as someone who is part English, so the reference is more of a generic and historic one), I bristle at tyranny and deceit, and I look for whatever those authentic sources are. We are often being messed with by people and groups that are up to no good and don’t care about our welfare --- so who can we truly trust? Have we been led on by lies? This is utterly important. Are we being messed with? What can we do about that if it is the case? How do we escape the power of deceivers? And what are we willing to pay for the consequences of our resistance?

In my music, authenticity is one of the first rules --- is it of value, and does it represent my worldview in a worthy way? I really would prefer not to be a mere tradesman/performer, if possible. Honest, moral truth is one of the goals of the art, regardless of genre.

And on this weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, our Scots-Irish Presbyterian view is to stand up, at all costs, for equal opportunity and equal justice for all in our Constitutional Republic of America. (Not equal outcome, a devastating idea that has ruined many societies.) To judge a person by the content of character, not other traits.

Every people group has significant things it contributes to our great melting-pot culture. I love this part of the heritage I get to pass on from ours!

(Just in case you were wondering: There are no hidden messages between the lines of this blog post. We don’t do that. We say what we mean and we mean what we say.)

Practice scales with four Christmas carols!
Sample the musical instruments of the Renaissance ...


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