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National Loyalty

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
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In this day and age, it’s hard for a lot of people to believe that France used to be America’s biggest ally and England our worst enemy. However, that was the political landscape 230 years ago during the American revolution and continuing on into the 19th Century (including the fact that France nearly came to the aid of the Confederate States during the Civil War).

I am an extremely patriotic person. I tear up whenever I hear the national anthem (I cried more than our gold medal winners did in Torino!). I love celebrating Independence Day with reading the Declaration of Independence, watching The Patriot, and watching fireworks set to the finale of the 1812 Overture. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in J.M. Hochstetler’s American Patriot series: Daughter of Liberty and Native Son, set during the Revolutionary era.

But recently, I’ve started to have a “national” identity crisis… in my historical trilogy, the Americans and French are the enemies of my characters! My heroine’s father fought against the fledgling American Navy both in the waters off the coast of America and along the coast of England. Later, my hero, William, fights against the Americans in the War of 1812. Then, there are the French, whom England fought against for decades (all during the course of my novels).

When I watch The Patriot, I cheer for the Americans (naturally). I’m thrilled when the French show up in the end and help to force the British to surrender. I despise the British soldiers (as I’m supposed to) for subjugating, torturing, and killing the patriotic, idealistic Americans.

But as I’ve researched the era from the British point of view and placed my British characters (Royal Navy officers) into real historical events, I find myself looking for battles where the British won – where they defeated the Americans. (I really don’t have any trouble with separating out my feelings about their defeating the “Frogs,” because of what the French were doing to their own countrymen.)

Do I have a solution to this dilemma? Not really. But pragmatically, although my fictional characters may be in conflict with my real-life ancestors, I can look at it with 21st century eyes with the knowledge that while America and England were bitter enemies 230 years ago, in 2006, England is our greatest ally. And I think that my characters would be happy to know that our two countries would finally come to the point where we recognize our similarities and have put old animosities behind us.

One Comment
  1. Carol Collett permalink
    Monday, March 6, 2006 1:09 pm

    Kaye, that is an interesting problem. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak of that before. I’ll be curious to find out how soon it resolves after you finish your manuscript.

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