On the Great American Road Trip of 2013, the Quarterback (remember him?) told me it was wrong that I felt so at home in the United States and saw it as part of my culture. “These people”, he said, “formed their nation in rebellion from yours”. So, indeed, they did and I like to think I would have been on the side of that rebellion. In establishing these United States, the Founding Fathers and the first citizens implemented the very best ideas of the English thinkers of the time, including my hero the original and best Tom Paine. It’s only a shame that those ideas were not implemented sooner and more fully in the land where they were conceived.
Such historical unpleasantnesses as the Revolutionary War apart (a major battle of which was fought on the land where the wedding I am here to attend took place) there is no question that the language, legal system, modes of worship, customs and manners of my home islands were transplanted successfully here. They have developed in ways that are entertainingly distinctive, but in truth no more different than, say, those of Edinburgh, Scotland from those of London, England. A South Carolina wedding, I am here to inform you, differs little in its essence from one that might take place on the lawn of a country house in England. If the house were close to London, it might even be possible to find a gospel choir similar to that which put us in the right frame of mind before the ceremony began. I doubt though that an English or Scottish bride would gaily mix the music of that choir with Scottish bagpipes and drums.
To see that choir singing the Lord’s praises in English, to watch the bride process to the sound of pipe and drum, and to hear the old English ceremony spoken in a Southern drawl was quite the experience. If Britain is lost to her enemies, our culture will, believe me, live on this side of the Pond.
To see my old friend look so happy as she took her man in marriage was a delight. She shares a Christian name with my late wife and her husband shares mine so I shed a tear as I heard them called upon in those names to be true to each other until death does them part. That moment passed however. I thoroughly enjoyed both the ceremony and the celebrations that followed until I slipped away to avoid the dancing – a form of revelry I simply do not grok. I particularly enjoyed the speech of the bride’s son (standing in, as he did at the ceremony, for the father of the bride). He’s the English-educated son of her English first husband and has the humorous irreverence that mostly did NOT make it across the Pond. Though the American speeches, heartfelt though they undoubtedly were, came over as too stickily sentimental for English tastes, the American audience seemed to enjoy his jokey, English-style speech as much as I did.
There is something inspiringly optimistic about a wedding. Two people, particularly two far too experienced to be naive, committing to love each other forever is, as Doctor Johnson cynically put it, a triumph of hope over experience. I don’t share his cynicism. Screw experience, I am all for hope!
Today the wedding party breaks bread together for the last time before we part company. I shall be heading off on the rest of my road trip and plan to follow roughly the route shown.
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