All my life, other people have enforced a nationality on me. When I lived in Sweden, I was ”that English kid”. Here in England, I’m often ”that Swedish guy”. It seems that as soon as I tell people about myself, they feel like imposing a nationality on me. A nationality, more often than not, that’s not the one I think of myself as.
The only language I have an odd accent in is in Swedish, but that’s more because of lack of use now. When I left Sweden, I didn’t have a discernible accent. Now, I find that I have to pause when speaking the language to search for the right word. Either that, or I use an English word instead. When mum and I speak, it will be a mix of both languages. Mark remarked on this once, and it stuck with me.
”You two should decide which language you speak and stick to it,” he said in that infuriatingly matter-of-fact condescension which only he is capable of. Yes, it annoyed me when he said it. I don’t claim to be that rational all the time. It stuck with me because of my annoyance.
My bi-nationality, or broken nationality, or no-nationality is part of me. I don’t feel any particular way, except when I’m excluded from one by other people. I like being able to slip between nationalities, seamlessly and fluidly.
In one instance I’m the Swede, and in the next I’m the English guy, and in the moment after that I’m the hybrid which observes the two states. That is who I am, and that is my national feeling. I’m both and neither at the same time.
On June 23rd we’re being asked if Britain should remain a member of the European Union. On the surface, that has nothing to do with nationalities or nationalism. Of course, in actual fact it has everything to do with it, because that’s the debate that is being fought. ”British interest”, ”National sovereignty”, whatever.
It was easy to pretend that the referendum had nothing to do with me, that as a bi-national, it wouldn’t affect me. I would get a Swedish pass-port, and life would go on as usual. It’s not working out that way because once again a nationality is being imposed on me. Either English, who supposedly should vote for ’out’. Or Swedish, who supposedly should vote to stay in. And then all the swirl around in the office, out on the town, in pubs, and wherever about ”What about Britain!?” Worse, either side is a political choice with aspects I don’t like. Vote ‘out’ for an arch-conservative Nigel Farage-Britain? Vote ‘remain’ for a neo-liberal Greece-crushing banker’s union?
I’m feeling a bit resentful that I’m being forced to chose a nationality. It’s almost as bad as having one chosen for me by other people. There are reasons to vote both ways, and siding with one means siding with that side’s politics. Also, it feels like I’m then excluding half of me; performing an amputation of myself. I’m both and neither, not just one.