It's May 5, 2013. As someone interested in the Civil War, I should have been at the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Chancellorsville, attending various historical talks and reenactments, and hearing all about Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and his soon-to-be-fatal-wounding by his own men.
I'll let others more qualified blog all about it. Tonight, I'm not someone interested in the Civil War but someone visiting friends and family in New York City, the city where I was born and grew up. I'm mulling over a statement a fellow blogger, one who lives in a former Confederate state, posted on my blog several days ago:
"I would pledge my allegiance to my state before my Federal government any day"
It was such an interesting question, to this native New Yorker, that I spent time in the early morning when I could not sleep thinking about it. Who am I loyal to? Who owns my heart, my identity?
If you had asked Stonewall Jackson who he had pledged his allegiance to, he probably would have answered Virginia (his birthplace is in Clarksburg, West Virginia, but it was Virginia when he was born. Or maybe he was born in Parkersburg. We really don't know.). Robert E. Lee would no doubt had said Virginia, too.
At reenactments, we have asked the question of reenactors playing the role of generals from the Union side, and they answered - to their state. Not to the Federal government.
This was a common belief before the Civil War - your allegiance was to your state.
After the Civil War? I think, for people in the North, we think less about our state identity than people living in former Confederate States do. But, I think we all, as a people, think of ourselves as American in a way that we did not before the Civil War. But, not always.
It's another way that we Americans, in many ways, are still fighting that war in our minds, even if we aren't taking up physical arms against ourselves. Even what we call the Civil War differs, depending on if we identify ourselves as being from North or South.
So, technically, I should be pledging my allegiance to New York State. But, not so fast. Things are never that easy.
There is a big mental divide between people living in New York City and people living in the rest of New York State. The two geographic areas actually have very little in common except for the fact that they both have the same Governor. I've actually lived longer in upstate New York longer than I lived in New York City, and I think like an upstate person.
But, if I open my mouth, I sound like someone from New York City. I have "that accent".
And, while I am New York City, the sounds and smells bring me back to a core part of me that still belongs to New York City, and always will - although I fled New York City the second I could once I was grown, and never turned back. Not only that, I was born in Queens, grew up in the Bronx and now, my remaining friends all live in Brooklyn. I spend my time in Brooklyn. I have not set foot in the Bronx in over 15 years.
So, I honestly don't know who I am loyal to, other than identifying myself as a citizen of the United States, the country I have lived in all my life.
Is your loyalty to state/province? Or your "federal" government?