Monday, August 18, 2008

My Thoughts on "Hyphenated Americans

A recurring theme on the blogs lately has been the criticism of "hyphenated Americans". My favourite post in favour of this viewpoint was posted on Lemon Lime Moon. She cited no less an authority than Theodore Roosevelt.
I am a person frequently lost in thoughts about generations past. All four of my grandparents were born in Europe. The collected stories and historical backdrop of my ancestors is the context in which I view America today. America is a nation of immigrants. But we are not a young country. The experiences in the many nations from which we once came are part of the vast pool of collective wisdom that has made this country great. My heart is with the battered Balkans, the birthplace of two of my grandparents. But the hard won wisdom of that tormented region stokes the fires of my gratitude to this country. One of the beauties of America is seeing those who once stood in battle against each other live together as common citizens. I once shopped at a news stand with a Hindu Indian owner and Indian Muslim employees. Everyone worked together to make sure that each employee could pray in the proper time according to his own tradition.
I have seen with my own eyes the seedling of peaceful coexistence being nurtured on American soil. Hope springs eternal that this tender sapling can be transplanted to distant shores not one but many times.
There are American values. There is an American system of government. And there is a body of common experience that defines us, much as every family has its shared memory. But to deprive our citizens of their own memories, to truncate the recollections of individual citizens would diminish the vast reservoir of collective experience that makes this country great and makes this country wise. There are names and lingering echoes of languages once dominant that reflect our past. The Russian names in Alaskan phone books, the African words remaining in some dialects of South Carolina and the Napoleonic legal code of Louisiana are a few of the many diverse brush strokes in the splendid and colourful landscape of our great country. The Cherokee alphabet and the Inuit language stand beside Mark Twain and Langston Hughes as tributaries to the common stream that is America.
A common language is needed to transcend our many differences. A system of law is indispensable to the cause of peace among the diverse strains within our nation. America has a duty to believe in its own preservation and ongoing perfection. Among its citizens, America must always come first. Our memories as individuals remain our gift to the nation, our contribution to the collective awareness.
"The great American melting pot" is a metaphor that illuminates our condition as much as it blinds us. The salad with a common dressing and a mosaic in which different colour tiles are held together in a common picture also provide a framework in which to see ourselves. We must not become prisoners of a single metaphor. Our vast landscape must be viewed at different angles and different levels.
There are and shall be times to transcend our diversity and times to embrace it. The good of our country should always be our overriding interest. Our awareness as individuals should be in service to the nation
E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Small threads of copper wire are bound together into cable that carries powerful current. Then there is the bundle of arrows in our national emblem that can be broken one by one but find strength in the unity of their separate parts. These are also metaphors with which to view ourselves. E pluribus unum.Out of many, one. G-d bless America. Sphere: Related Content


CKAinRedStateUSA said...

Indeed, God bless America.

From a German-Irish-English-Portugeuse-Dutch-Native-American-North-African-Jewish American -- and I'm sure I've missed some hyphens.

Just thinking: Maybe we need a 12-Step Program called "Hyphenateds Anonymous."

Openers: "Hi, my name is [fill in the blank] and I'm a hyphenated American."

Lemon said...

Glad to see your thoughts on this. Nicely written!!