Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Being American - By A Post-Modern "Revolutionary"

“I was born in Mexico and raised in the United States. My family has been in the Italian restaurant business for nearly 4 decades. In my 28 years I have been mistaken for dozens of different nationalities and ethnicities. I happen to love Mariachi music as much as I love honky tonks. I listen to musicals and am as die-hard a college football fan as my living in the Deep South would have you believe. I have liberal friends and conservative friends, atheists, agnostics, and evangelical proselytizers (and everyone in between). I feel equally at home with corporate climbers as I do with true bohemians. Artists of every stripe I call friend as well. Yet, to which community do I belong?

I fancy myself a writer and admire such libertines as Shelley and Byron while also citing great influences by those brave souls with ascetic tendencies such as Gandhi and Thoreau. Who am I then? My philosophy takes as much from Nietzsche as it does from Thomas Aquinas. What are my beliefs?

Am I bundling of contradictions? Paradox to what purpose?

When I sat down to write this post my intention was to express my joy and pride at being Latino; of being part of a culture so colorful and so diverse. The more I thought about it the more I realized that embracing one part of what makes me who I am would be, at least, a tacit rejection of another part. Why does that other culture not elicit the same pride? Is the Anglo-American any less loving toward his family and friends? Their music? Is it less important because it is not mine?

I can sit and pass judgment. I can delude myself in declaring that my pride is my own and does not demean others. Though in truth the intentions can be pure the reality is that in embracing differences as exclusionary traits of community we ostracize, either directly or indirectly, those outside and without those traits. Pride sets before us a dangerous path albeit a necessary one. My family goes back hundreds of years in Mexico and I inherited the Mexican enchantment with the land. I feel my heart swell in joyous rhythms as I remember the past, bask in the present, and work for the future of that particular place and people.  That pride fuels thought, words and action. The shame of the Conquest tempers that pride. The diversity of the United Stated opens the eyes to a greater possibility for fulfillment of potential.

Imperialist tendencies aside, the American Experiment, as this nation was conceived is the idea that mankind can embrace those differences and somehow incorporate them as part of a larger whole to promote freedom, peace, and prosperity. So much has gone wrong to demean this idyllic dream, yet it perseveres. So many have attempted to oppress one new immigrant group after another and yet the Irish are still here, the Germans, the Mexicans, Cubans, Chinese, and so many others. Yet though we recall that heritage fondly we embrace that dream as well. Not of the green lawn and the white picket fence, but that here in this corner of the world we can all participate in the world’s greatest, most difficult and important experiment: that community is ours as we make it not as it is given at birth by geography. I am Latino, Mexican, Seminole, and so many other names that indicate birth, race, education and other characteristics and endeavors. Yet the only way I know to enjoy my Mariachis, honky tonks, college football, and Chinese cuisine is by living in these United States where despite our best efforts to defile we somehow paradoxically keep alive the dream that enables these differences to be enjoyed and to not matter at all in the making of friends and family. The American founders borrowed heavily from the philosophies of the world. This is the gift they gave, perfect in its ideal, putrid now in its execution. Let us all work to save this gift worth saving.” Spoke the dreamer…

So much meaning, good and bad, in this flag. Let us not forget the bad, but always work for the good.

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