I’m sure that my fellow tattoo first-timers will agree with me when I say that being an American at an international tattoo is life changing. I have never identified as patriotic, or even proud of my country. It is not that I am ashamed of my heritage, I have just never had strong feelings one way or the other. While my identity has always been strongly influenced by my country and its history, I haven’t been excited to share that part of myself with people.
Ever since we arrived for our first rehearsal here my attitude toward patriotism and national pride has changed. As a member of one of only two American groups performing in the tattoo I have been identified as my country. Acting as a representative of the United States, even in such an unofficial capacity, has reminded me how important kindness and friendship are. I am not a member of MCV to the members of the Kings Guard of Norway or Club Piruett of Estonia. I am one of The Americans. I belong with the red, white, and blue uniform and flag. When they see me backstage it is clear that they do not see me… they see the whole country. That is an incredible responsibility, and we all take it very seriously.
Every tattoo participant clearly feels the same way. We are ambassadors, proud of our roots and eager to reach out across borders to form bonds. Every member of the over twenty performing groups can be seen backstage when they are not rehearsing, talking with members from other countries. We laugh, shout, and wave our arms around to help communicate through the language barriers. We compare uniforms, ask questions about logos (fun fact: the Home Guard Band of Eslöv has three crowns on their shirts because it is a simplified version of the Swedish coat of arms), and talk about flag etiquette in different countries. We are making friends and having fun.
We are all representatives, and proud of it.