I interrupted a discussion between a couple of customers* yesterday about a local teacher who was encouraging young students to practice their culture. Both were adamantly against it, stating that immigrants to the US should assimilate completely and become American and even went so far as to say that the teacher was un-American.
I asked what exactly American was, to which one replied that it was speaking English and embracing the American way of life and the culture.
I asked what exactly American culture was, to which I got generic and non-specific replies.
To me, American culture is a hodge-podge of international traditions and flavour (and the occasional refusal to stop using a "u" in certain words), and that's one of the things that make this country great. So many Americans define themselves by their heritage and as a result you have Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans etc. Everyone I meet tells me where their ancestors came from and most of them admit to retaining some practices from that culture. And why not? What's un-American about recognizing and embracing your history? It's part of who you are.
On the flip side, if you yourself moved to another country, would you stop being American? Suddenly give up everything you'd known your entire life, even forget it existed? No, you wouldn't. You couldn't! Most other countries wouldn't expect you to. In fact, when my husband moved to New Zealand, we included parts of his traditions in to our every day lives and in to our celebrations. Everywhere he went, people would ask him about America and American life. I get the same thing now that I live in the US. Even when I apply for Citizenship, I'll still be a New Zealander. I'll still be asked where I come from, and I'll still get the questions about my home country. And that's cool. I'm proud of where I come from, just like an Italian-Irish-German-Asian-American is proud of where they come from.
I agree that assimilation is necessary. I just don't agree that a person should be expected to completely erase their history, traditions and culture in order to appease. What do you think?
*For the record, one was Latino/Black, the other white.
My Great Aunt was found safe and well, as were my cousins. I have learned that one of my oldest friends is among the missing and another old school friend is among the dead.
Most recently, the death toll was at 123, though we're still hoping for a miracle in respect to live rescues and not just recoveries. Search and Rescue teams from Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Britain and the USA are on the ground.
As well as being from New Zealand, victims are from 20 other countries. They estimate that 1/4 of the Central Business District is a write-off and demolishing what's left will take months. Forced closure of the CBD means that the city will grind to a halt, with hundreds of people unable to work.
So please, if you can spare it, please consider donating to the Red Cross to help. Details on international donations and what the money is used for can be found right here.
Please, spare a prayer or, if you're not religious, a thought for the people of New Zealand, particularly Christchurch, where a devastating 'aftershock' brought the city to it's knees on Monday (US time).
The official death toll is currently at 75, but it is believed that another 300 people are unaccounted for. An estimated 80 to more than 100 of those are believed to have perished in the CTV building, another 22 in the ChristChurch Cathedral.
I myself am still waiting to hear word of my elderly Great Aunt and her 2 sons, all of whom live in areas which are currently deemed unlivable. We are hoping for news today, when two of my cousins try and get in to those areas in an attempt to locate them. We are hoping that the reason that neither we, nor their immediate family, have heard from them is simply due to power and phone outages.
Again, please spare a prayer or a thought for my family, as well as the hundreds of other families affected by this tragedy.
I think I've alluded before how politics in the US drives me nuts. The last few days, it's gotten worse, compliments of Sheriff Dupnik, who in the moments after the Arizona shootings, started blaming the tragedy on rhetoric from the right. He had no facts on which to base his opinion, and still doesn't, but for whatever reason, he became the ringmaster in this particular media circus which has now gone so far as to call for manslaughter charges to be laid against certain personalities on the right.
But what's the truth? Jared Loughner remains a mystery, with several conflicting reports regarding his personality and his political beliefs (or lack thereof). There's no evidence there that he had ever heard or seen Palin, Beck or anyone else speak, or that he was even a conservative or a Tea Party supporter. The last real political leaning we heard of was a former school friend that said that in 2007, he was a liberal. Another stated that he didn't watch TV or listen to the radio and was neither a liberal or a conservative but he was apparently an atheist and believed the 9/11 conspiracy theorists claim that the US government orchestrated the tragedies of that day.
The only things we do know as being factual are that he'd dabbled with drugs and alcohol (once being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning), he'd been kicked out of college and had multiple run-ins with the police (both on campus and off). He'd also met Rep. Giffords at least once in 2006 having attended one of her events. Those are facts. Everything else is pure conjecture.
Even if there were a case for 'rhetoric' being the cause, both the Left and the Right have blood on their hands. Come to think of it, all of us do. We use the same kind of rhetoric every day, perhaps not as overt, but it's there. Every day we're under the gun, over a barrel (the origins of which refer to flogging), or we're jumping the gun, biting the bullet, or throwing down the gauntlet. Almost all of us have uttered the words "I could kill him!" when someone pisses us off. Does that mean we're playing with real guns, actually being flogged or would commit murder and take out whoever raised our ire? No, it doesn't. Normal people don't go to those extremes.
Jared Loughner is far from normal. He's a severely deranged individual. He doesn't need a scapegoat.