In the movie Dead Man, the wandering, poetic Native American (Gary Farmer) encountered by William Blake (Johnny Depp) responds to Blake’s question ‘Who are you?’ by answering, “I am nobody.” Removed from his indigenous culture and schooled in English literature, Nobody roams 19th century Western America through a maze of traumatized tribes and individuals negotiating a cruel and tragic era as what perhaps can best be described as a lost soul.
I thought of Blake’s double-entendre about Nobody, when discovering our Irish genealogy descended from Eoghan Ua Niall, allowing us to claim we are nEoghan (descended from Owen), which is pronounced ‘no one’.
In 21st century America, there are many lost souls, wandering aimlessly in search of an identity consistent with their values that will in turn give meaning and purpose to their lives. For the majority who are non-natives to this continent, their ethnic roots, national languages, and tribal cultures have largely dissipated into a meaningless superficiality coined ‘citizenship’ that provides little social support or personal fulfillment.
United solely in our collective acts of aggression, it is an unrewarding relationship with no vision.
Political campaigns, social movements, and heritage events provide momentary inclusion, but absent a wholistic regimen that addresses all our needs, the lost souls will continue to grow as a significant sector of American society. And that doesn’t bode well for anyone.