Monday, August 27, 2007

Bitching Until I'm Red, White, and Blue in the Face

Back in January, I wrote a little piece called ¿Dónde está Miami? ~or~ Where is Miami?

I ranted about an American family who had to learn to speak Spanish to function in their new hometown of Miami. Since that time, I’ve realized a few things. I wasn’t clear enough about what I felt. By omitting some of my thoughts, I’ve potentially offended some people I didn’t mean to offend. Side note: Sometimes I do mean to offend. That wasn’t one of those times. Another possible problem with that incomplete blog post is that I may have given the impression that I condone racism. I don’t. I regret not making clear that I love people of all ethnic backgrounds. Over time, I regretted having not expounded upon my feelings about the whole situation. In the next few days, I’m going to attempt to remedy that.


When I was a kid, I remember hearing America described as a melting pot. At the time, that sounded like a really cool thing. New arguments make me question what I once thought made the most sense. The old phrases are being jettisoned and new ones becoming darlings of the media. Multiculturalism and assimilation are the new buzzwords. There’s been a call to rename what we’re doing here a tossed salad with everyone retaining their original culture. Those who favor assimilation are accused of promoting a completely homogenous society with a loss of individualism. Those in favor of immigrants retaining their original cultural identity are criticized by others who say failing to integrate leads to separatism.

The tossed salad description doesn’t work for me. The carrot retains its unique carroteristics. Yes, I made up that word. The carrot doesn’t become a salad. The same goes for the cucumbers, croutons, and all the rest of the ingredients in the salad bowl. They don’t become salad, they remain separate. The problem with the salad analogy and multiculturalism as they’re being promoted is that they doesn’t simply celebrate diversity, but rather, they encourage it to the point of abandoning what it means to be part of a greater something. I’m going to get completely lost in the salad analogy if I’m not careful so I’m abandoning it. Plus, there’s that whole Urban Dictionary definition of tossed salad and I’m not going there.

I digress.

Are you an American or not?

If you were born here or you chose to become a citizen, then you’re an American. It seems rather simple to me. Unless you have dual citizenship, then you’re not a Korean-American, Mexican-American, African-American, or Whatever-American. One exception I can live with is First-Generation-American. If a person isn’t born here but chooses to legally come here from another country, I’m completely fine with that person having “first generation” status and receiving government funding for help in getting started here.

Am I suggesting that family history and culture be abandoned in favor of a homogenized society? Not at all. We need to show not just a tolerance for other cultures and histories but an embracing of them. Our tolerance needs to not be such that we lose our Americanism in the face of being tolerant. Why can’t our tolerance be that we welcome the different accents of people whose families haven’t been here for generations? For that matter, why can’t we be more tolerant of those people whose accents identify them as being from a different part of the U.S.?

I mentioned earlier that I’d worried about the possibility that I’d offended with my earlier post. Let me tell you a little story.

I have a very dear friend who watched intolerance firsthand. Her father came here legally, attended school, and earned a Master’s Degree. Even though his vocabulary and understanding of grammar were so much better than many people he encountered, his Spanish accent remained quite prominent. He was frequently and rudely told that he “needed to learn to speak English.” That makes me angry. I say celebrate the accents! Celebrate the food, the dress, the music.

Sit down to the new All-American dinner of Egg Foo Carne with Hush Matzos on the side. How about a nice Haggis* Schnitzel and Kotopoulo Scallopine? Top it all off with a big slice of apple pie. Put your iPod on International Shuffle and enjoy the sounds of the music of the world.

Our diversity is part of what makes this country so amazing. Celebrate that diversity! However, don’t stop celebrating being an American. How do we do that? How about national pride? How about language?

More on that next…

*Confession: the thought of haggis makes me more than a little gaggy but I was trying to make a point.


Anonymous said...

In Angels in America Tony Kushner refers to America as the 'melting pot that never melted'. (Or something along those lines - my copy is still somewhere among the towers of boxes in the basement.)

It's amazing to me that there are so many campaigns out there for foreign aid that people are willing to jump on the bandwagon for (ie., Darfur), but when it comes to their neighbors, they are unwilling to help or to tolerate their differences.

Thank you for stopping by - your comment made me blush (in a completely heterosexual way, of course.)

Sgt said...

I think the original post was pretty dead on. Methods of arrival aside, if you choose to be here for visiting or living, then you should be accommodating by the standards of that country.

When I'm in Germany, I do my best to speak German (or bring a translator). I do not request they learn English to accommodate me.

When I'm in England, I follow and respect British Royal customs (despite my personal feelings). I don't demand the queen shake my hand to be more American.

I could really care less what language people speak in their homes or holidays they celebrate, but if I are in an American school or store, then you should be speaking English and abiding by the rules of the U.S. not crying racism because the teacher won't teach your child in Spanish or some other language.

The press and political figures need to quit spinning this as a form of racism and people will stop going to ridiculous measures to accommodate everyone. Maybe, just maybe if that happened, our immigrants and guests would stop expecting it or choose to go elsewhere.

Ima Wurdibitsch said...

Hi Driving, I love that quote. I agree about the foreign aid causes. It seems a shame that we can't fix much of what's going on here first.

Thanks, SGT. I think I just felt like I had so much more to say. I am a wordy bitch. I love what you said, especially, "The press and political figures need to quit spinning this as a form of racism and people will stop going to ridiculous measures to accommodate everyone." When is it going to stop? Our schools can barely teach English and now we're trying to add another language? Crazy.

When I'm going to be in a foreign country, I do my best to learn what the local customs are and follow them.