So I’ve made this post over the years about 100,000 times. It’s part and parcel of everything I’m living the last couple of weeks. And the heart of the matter is this: I don’t have community in my life.
I’m comfortable in New York. As comfortable as I’ve been anywhere since Chicago. What I take from this (in combination with my discomfort in the western cities or the south or southwest) is that I should live somewhere in the urban midwest or northeast, i.e. in the developed corridor of the northeast quadrant of the United States.
But comfortable is not the same thing as happy. The one preceeds (and is generally required for) the other, but happiness remains a thing apart.
I am lonely. With friends I am lonely. In relationships I am lonely. Even with family I am often lonely. No community. I don’t belong to anything. Saying that I belong to Chinese culture or German culture or American culture is a cop-out. I’ve never been to China and speak no Chinese. I’ve never been to Germany, either, and my German is, at best, rusty. But the point is that even if I spoke perfect Chinese and went there every other week, that’s different from feeling that a group of people are my people.
They wouldn’t be after all these years. They just wouldn’t. I don’t have “a people” and likely never will. No, the “American people” are a) not mine because I was raised in an intercultural family in an anti-state religious faction, b) not mine because while they can they make me comfortable, they also make me tremendously resentful and angry , and c) not mine because by and large the American people don’t “have each other” as community anyway, except for in a tiny smattering of remaining small towns in which I was not raised.
Community is also not the same thing as a neighborhood or a department at school or work, etc., because those are ephemeral and temporal. You can change your neighborhood like that. Same with school or work. These people may be your friends, but they are not your blood. They are not ideologically yours. They are just circumstantially and emotionally yours.
I am [if you see the phrase in sociological terms] literally a “man without a nation.”
I was born and socialized to be a part of the Mormon nation and in the same way that a Frenchman is always a Frenchman and an Italian is always an Italian, I am now unable to take on any other cloth, even though I have rejected that one. I and the friends I have that have rejected Mormonism are not expatriated or excommunicated, we are in self-imposed exile from the nation into which we were born.
It’s not that the intercultural project that is America is a failure on those terms per se. It’s just mispractice. Somehow we have used intercultural/multicultural not as descriptions for what amount to a large number of coexisting communities, but rather as code for the abolishment of communities of strong identification.
Multicultural has come not to mean “lots of distinct cultures,” but rather “a general indistinctness of culture.”
And the result is me. I’m lonely, not for someone to love or for someone to love me, but for somewhere to belong—cosmically belong, to the core of my bones. As it is, I don’t care where I am buried or who I am buried next to. One place is as good as the next, one stranger the same.