Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, January 16, 2004  

Odd Peach People

My wife was discussing the Civil Rights Movement to her second graders (MLK day stuff) who were shocked about pictures from the Jim Crow era of water fountains and so forth. They couldn't understand discrimination based on color (almost all of her class are minorities and immigrants), but when asked what color she was, the kids said "peach".

I like that. I've always hated the black or white denotations for their brutal inaccuracies.

But a little while ago when The Derb mentioned that some people would like to see 60 million Chinese immigrate here, my first thought was - well, that'll raise our collective IQ; but my second thought was - when have the Chinese here or anywhere ever produced a George Washington or anyone like the Founding Fathers?

Even in wild eyed patriot groups, you never see too many Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Jewish, Arab ancestry people, do you?

You will probably find English, Irish, polish, German guys.

You'll find that conservatives and religious people are present in all groups, but I'm wondering if there is something about the achievement and heritage of creating America which confers a more visceral possessiveness about it - expressed to an extreme in certain 'gangs'.

Is there something about even the vestiges of foreign cultures which remain in some immigrant groups which fail to produce the sort of "memes" which are bedrock even when unconscious in other Americans?

I mentioned in another post that the people celebrating Cinco de Mayo in California aren't all that likely to be especially enthused on the Fourth of July about Washington, Adams, or Patrick Henry.

Some paleo conservatives observe that our national foundations only seem particularly proprietary to the Northern European stock among us. Ancient Roman culture was gradually undermined by foreigners and their mystery religions. It might be said that foreign cultures are a kind of mystery religion in the work they do to undermine cultural foundations, too.

What I'm saying, that if there is such a thing as a classic American patriot, one who is devoted to the memory, celebration, and perseverance of the traditions, values, heroism, and principles of the American Revolution, you don't often see them in any other shade than peach. (Although, there are currently a number of people who are the children of Frederick Douglas and his patriotic insight.)

Yes, we have war heroes of every hue and ancestry who proudly march on Veteran's Day, but Amy Tan and her cousins aren't writing historical novels about Nathan Hale ever.

Now, if Amy Tan and I are both Americans with the same love of place, people, and story, why is it that I am deeply interested in early Americans, their struggles and achievements, and Amy Tan is not (assuming that for the moment)?

I do assume that since Amy Tan is very interested in her story, and that of her mother's generation as immigrants. She focuses on culture collisions. In interviews, I have the impression that she wanders around in a perpetual memory haze of wondering how or where she fits in to America, and what her mother's problems were and the effect they had on her.

I'm not criticizing her as a solipsist since most stories are generated by rather self-absorbed people, but all the reviews I read of books celebrated for bringing the hyphenated American's experience to life, none ever convey a sense that the ethnic authors care a whit about America in the sense of owning all that she is.

Instead, all of the authors set up a conflict about a poor, Mexican boy growing up brown in a white world; or poor, black girl growing up in a harsh white world; or a poor Chinese kid growing up in a foreign land; or the Jewish kid loosing his religion, making it big, but filled with East Side New York Yiddish memories reflecting on the goyim.

How many stories do you hear about the Filipino kid who was taught about Davy Crockett, Lighthorse Harry Lee, Daniel Boone, and fell in love with such history?

So, is love of the American Revolution an ethnic matter, too? Something inbred with the unspoken, unconscious attitudes that mark any particular group of people?

Are there Americans and then Americans?

As when we are abroad and say, "oh there's another American 'cause we walk and talk alike." Or is it when we hear, "you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands".

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:27 PM |