During my time in Ireland, I realized that whenever someone asked me where I was from, my instinctive response was “I’m from Montana.” Not once did I ever say that I was from the United States. Once I noticed this, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I began to understand that this was an expression of my personal identity. I don’t identify myself as an American. I know that I am, but it isn’t how I see myself. I’m first and foremost and always and forever a Montanan. My pride and my affection are for my state more so than for my country. Once I acknowledged this, I started thinking about the Irish identity – one so very different from my own. My Montana pride stems from the state’s beauty and way of life and the simple fact that it’s my home. Irish pride, if I may say so, is a lot more complex – so complex that I don’t believe I can accurately explain it or ever fully understand it. Of course it varies for every person, but it’s rooted in centuries of conflict and poverty and oppression. If you ask any American when they think their history starts, they will most likely say somewhere around 1776. If you ask any Irishman, you’ll get a lot of different answers – but all of them will be a lot longer ago than some measly 200 years. This is one of the things that most fascinates me about the Irish. Their history spans such a greater time period, and all of it remains so central to their modern identity. History is a common topic of conversation in a very different way than it is here. Because I don’t have this immense frame of history, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to really understand what it is to be Irish. But even as I lack that understanding, I know what it means to be a Montanan, and that’s enough for me.
General Post Office, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
St. Finbarr’s Cathedral, Cork, Republic of Ireland