Entries by Brian Halpin

No One Gets Out of Here With Clean Hands

  The Cherokee of Southern Appalachia (well, some of the Cherokee), made a deal with The Devil, and lost. I have already written elsewhere that history is a dance between our unwritten stories, our handed-down folklore, and the things people actually wrote down at the time events were unfolding. The “art” of history is the […]

Surfing the Waves of Immigration

  I read it once somewhere that Steven Spielberg spent quite some time finding a suitable cast for Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg was diligent enough in his research to note that the faces of American soldiers during WWII were more clearly “ethnic” than most members of the US military at the time of filming in […]

The Silence of the Femmes

  It is often said that the USA is the land of reinvention. Identity in America has been malleable and saleable for centuries, whether it be fake preachers and prophets, or incoming congressmen claiming to be the progeny of Holocaust survivors. Yet nowhere allows, indeed encourages, self-reinvention like Hollywood. Since the earliest days of silent […]

Yes Virginia, There is an American Culture

Repeat an idea often enough within a cultural space, and people will eventually assume it must be true. In Southern Appalachia, the pre-eminence ascribed to “Scots-Irish” cultural influence – especially as regards music – has been repeated so often that people have come to take it “as Gospel”. These constantly repeated American assumptions have even […]

Where Have All the Good Girls Gone?

Hazel Dickens was a West Virginia girl, with deep roots in the mountains there. During much of the 20th century, urban and suburban America mocked the “hillbillies” of Southern Appalachia, while simultaneously benefiting from cheap Appalachian coal. And while much of the USA laughed or stared aghast at fare such as “The Beverly Hillbillies” or […]

Modern Attitudes and “Back Then”

  Ever since the advent of farming and urban civilisation around 10,000 years ago, some people have tried to make themselves the master of others. The list of reasons these people invent to justify their dominance over others could fill a library. Eventually the people who use others for self-enrichment may even come to believe […]

Appropriate Appropriation?

  Meet “Grey Owl“, born 18 Sep 1888. A one time fur trapper for Canadian companies, he eventually came to understand the great damage being wrought upon the natural world by unregulated commercial exploitation of natural resources. During his life, he wrote numerous books, becoming a renowned early spokesperson for the conservation movement.  He was […]

American Ethnicities According to Wikipedia

  As Stephen Stills once wrote for his band Buffalo Springfield in 1966: “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…” Posts by friends on social media can send this writer down some pretty deep rabbit holes. Seeing a post about the 1970s film “Billy Jack” got me to thinking about the weird […]

Johnny Depp and the Gatekeepers

  Is it any wonder that most “Old Mix Americans” eventually declared their heritage under simplistic or ridiculous “race” or color labels? If there was ever any doubt that in the USA, “white” has always been a social category masquerading as a legitimate biological category, consider the following: Why are Americans who claim mixed ancestry […]

The 80-10-10 Principle

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become less and less certain of so many things. One thing which has remained, however, is my belief in the “80-10-10 Principle“. That is to say, perhaps 80% of humanity tend to be followers, blown to and fro by the prevailing spirit of the times. Another 10% are actively and […]