Monday, January 01, 2007

So, Really, Why CitizenSE?

Well, it's been 2007 in Japan for over 13 hours now, so the "New World" is about to join us; Baba has her first day off since we've been in Chiba, so the onnahito futari and the onnanoko futari have been hanging out downstairs (Diva Girl's been coming up here every so often to check on me) and are now out shopping; and in yesterday's post I raised questions (and got what I believe to be this blog's first-ever comment--thanks and congrats to nikeroo!) that I've been thinking about a bit, so I think it's about time to take them on in the course of answering the questions of why a Hawthorne blog and why call it "Citizen of Somewhere Else" more directly than I've done in previous posts in this series.

"Henceforth I am a citizen of somewhere else" is a line I've always liked from Hawthorne, for reasons I've been circling around on this blog. The ghostly quality of the declaration and of the self-referentiality is something I'm going to have to address more directly later. But today is about acknowledging the self-referentiality of the blog title. As an American living in Japan from August 2006 to August 2007, I am literally a citizen of somewhere else for that year. And when my family and I are at home in the States, I'm the only one who's not a citizen of somewhere else (my two girls have dual citizenship--until they turn 21, that is--and my wife has no plans to give up her Japanese citizenship). Maybe someday Japan and the U.S. will agree to allow people to declare dual citizenship, but until then, someone in the family is always going to be a citizen of somewhere else, no matter where we live.

The question of where to live was an important one for Hawthorne at the time he was writing "The Custom-House," and its importance is registered both in the way he writes about Salem, his "native town," in the essay itself and in the fact that he never again lived there. No doubt I am sensitive to this issue because the question of where to live is of great importance to my family and myself. Up until this past August, we've lived in a small town in western NY about three and a half hours by car from where I grew up and where my parents still live (in 10 days I'll see them for what looks to be the only time this year in Hawaii, where my dad and I are attending overlapping conferences and bringing our families along), and even closer to my aunt and uncle. To move almost anywhere else in the States would mean to move further away from my closest family (my brother and his family are in CT and central NY provides a nice place for us to meet when he ad his wife are up to travelling with their four kids). Until August 2007, we live in Fukuoka, Japan, about the same distance by plane and subway/bus (and much longer by shinkansen) from my wife's parents here in Chiba. We're about the same travel time from my wife's sister (and her three kids) in Okinawa. Wherever we live, we're going to be pretty far away from a large number of people we love. That's the reality of an international marriage. As our children grow up and our parents age, this is going to be an even bigger question than it has been for the three-and-a-half years of our marriage.

While not in an international marriage, Hawthorne himself spent several years outside the United States, when Franklin Pierce appointed him to a consular post in Liverpool and when he travelled in Italy with his family before returning to the States. And as his writings from 1853-1864 show, the questions of where to live and how he felt about being an American citizen were quite pressing to him, as well, for obvious reasons. But rather than get into that, I should note that my blog title, too, alludes to my own feelings about being an American citizen. I'll post more on this later on this "professional/personal" blog, but for those who want something of a preview, I recommend checking out my "political" blog, Objectivist v. Constructivist v. Theist, particularly my columns on immigration reform and George W. Bush. Suffice to say I'm not happy with the current administration and only wish I could spend the rest of its term in Japan. Unlike Hawthorne, I'll never be in a position to write a campaign biography for one of my friends--unless this fantasy football columnist or this rock star ever decide to give up their day jobs, that is.

Ah, my relation to Hawthorne? Obviously by choosing a blog title that references us both, albeit in complicated ways--not to mention by doing the comparison/contrast thing in this post--I am acknowledging a tie with him and asserting a distance from him. Back when I started this blog, I promised to devote several posts to my talk before the Kyushu American Literature Society, which traced the transformations in my race and Hawthorne research project from its conception as a dissertation proposal in the early 1990s to its (ongoing) becoming a book manuscript in the mid-2000s. I haven't forgotten that promise, but I don't intend to keep it just yet.

Especially because the ladies have come home and imoto wants her daddy to hold her! One-handed typing is a drag, so I'll have to continue this next Monday!

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