This past weekend I made my yearly pilgrimage to Stone Mountain Park to partake in the festivities of the Stone Mountain Highland Games & Scottish Festival. My lineage through my mother’s side of the family sees me as a member in good standing of Clan Buchanan and I always enjoy immensely taking in many of the activities the Games provide.
One of the activities I like to observe is Scottish Country Dance. Not to be confused with the more athletic Highland Dancing, Scottish Country Dance (Cèilidh) is traditional social dancing for ladies and gents and is very similar to square dancing. This year I had the good fortune to attend the pre-event gala that took place offsite the evening before the Games officially opened, where an informal dance was included as part of the schedule.
I entered the room where the Cèilidh was already underway and sat down on one of the many chairs provided for observers that lined the wall. Watching the dancers, my attention was immediately drawn to a kilted gentleman who was, in my less than expert opinion, the best dancer on the floor. His movements were precise and he danced without hesitation and with obvious pleasure. Then I realized that the gentleman in question was undoubtedly NOT Scottish or even European. This gentleman was Japanese and I learned later that his name was Yoshi.
Delighted by what I saw, after the dance ended I introduced mySelf and told Yoshi how much I enjoyed his dancing. He accepted my praise with typical Japanese humility and quickly excused himself. The next day at the Games proper, I again saw Yoshi, this Time dancing with a group of less than skilled participants. Regardless of the proficiency of his partners, Yoshi still shined in his performance and his demeanor. The man undoubtedly loved what he was doing.
It subsequently occurred to me that, in the current climate of rampant political correctness, there are those who would be very happy to deny Yoshi the pleasure of participating in Scottish dance, just as they would like to deny a young lady of European descent from wearing a traditional Chinese dress to a high school prom. The culture police, though generally well-intentioned, are very short-sighted regarding both history and the potential consequences of artificially enforced cultural segregation. Bloodlines that do not intermingle, whether physically, intellectually, or culturally are ultimately doomed to a sort of inbreeding that is detrimental to all.
The Sun does not shine only on those of European descent. Water is not solely for the First Nations Peoples of the Americas. The Air does not belong only to Africans. It wasn’t so very long ago that great pleasure was taken when one foreign culture showed interest in another. What is now thought of as appropriation used to be considered recognition and respectful appreciation. In fact it was not uncommon to view the rejection of one culture by another as not only rude but outright bigoted and a sign of ethnic elitism. It is my hope that clearer heads will eventually prevail and we can all get on with being more like our ancestors, discovering, sharing, and appreciating one another’s traditions and ways without concern for condemnation and retribution.
How Yoshi came to be a Cèilidh dancer I never found out. If I see him again next year, I will most assuredly do all that I can to learn his story in detail. For now, the memory of his enchanting dancing is enough to make me smile.
©Billy Red Horse