An American Family Weekend  

header1979 38M
404 posts
5/25/2006 11:34 pm

Last Read:
5/29/2006 7:42 pm

An American Family Weekend


I have been away from the website for several days spending time with my family. On Saturday my sister was married and on Sunday my brother graduated from the University of Virginia. We had family and friends come from around the country for the events. I usually like to blog about topics related to issues that arise on this website rather than personal matters but last weekend was very special for me.

My sister had a large outdoor wedding in one of the most beautiful settings in Virginia. The weather was perfect for an outdoor wedding and my sister was the most beautiful bride that you could ever see. Well maybe I have to say except for my wife on our wedding day. lol But you get the idea. One of the things that struck me about our family was how diverse we are.

My family basically is Irish, English, Italian and Mexican origin. We have very rich cultural heritage that we enjoy. And coming from various immigrant roots, the people in my family have benefited from the opportunities made available to them in America. My family in America started from Irish farmers and stone masons who came to the US after the War of 1812; from English textile brokers who came to the US after the Civil War; from an Italian tailor who came to the US in the early part of the twentieth century; and Spanish Mexican immigrants who came to the US after World War II. I have a great-great-grandfather from the UK who served in the Canadian Army in World War I before coming to the US. The diversity is increased further by marriage. I have cousins who are Jewish, Japanese, Lebanese Arab, Polish and Russian origin. All the members of the family have become successful by hard work and persistence in starting a new life in a new country.

I don’t define success solely in terms of financial success but in terms of happiness with attaining the goals that people set for themselves to achieve. My parents have been successful in the US Foreign Service. Growing up we had a great life living in countries around the world where my father was posted and being part of the diplomatic community in Washington. The guests at my sister’s wedding reflected the diversity of friends that we have met from embassies from around the world and the International School in Potomac. But some of my parent’s cousins have a different type of success. They were counter-culture hippies from the sixties who founded a hippie commune in New England and they and their family and the other members of the commune still maintain the communal life-style they chose. It is like stepping back in time when I visit the commune. But the point I am making is that they too worked hard to achieve their goal of having a successful commune. One of the things that has been instilled in me by my family is that if you don’t work hard at something you will not be happy at anything. I think all of us in the family work hard to be the best we can be at what we have chosen to be in life, from living on a hippie commune; to being doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, artists, actors, business people; to being in the US Foreign Service. In America it is possible to rise from humble beginnings to achieve your dreams.

Sunday morning the family headed to Charlottesville for my brother’s graduation at the University of Virginia. Again it was a picture perfect day on the grounds of the University with a magnificent view of the mountains. For those who may not know, the University was founded by Thomas Jefferson and is one of the most historic and prestigious universities in the US. They only admit the most academically qualified students and earning a degree takes a lot of work. It is an honor and a great achievement to earn a degree from UVA. The graduation ceremony is called “walking the lawn.” The lawn is the long grass mall behind the historic rotunda designed by Mr. Jefferson. For almost 200 years, the graduates process from the rotunda down the lawn to the graduation ceremony at the far end of the lawn. The parents sit on the lawn to watch the graduation ceremony. It is a great honor to “walk the lawn.”

One of the things I noticed while I was sitting on the lawn, was the great diversity of people around me. People were speaking Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, Pfarsi, Urdu and Hindi among the languages that I could recognize. Their children were obviously the first generation of their families in the US and they were graduating from one of the most prestigious universities in the US. The sense of pride and accomplishment showed in them. But what really struck me was that as the honor guard marched down the lawn with the US flag at the end of the procession, every one stood up and put their hand over their heart or saluted as the flag passed. When the flag was brought to the rostrum, the pledge of allegiance was recited and the Star Spangled Banner was sung by all, regardless of national origin. Later during the day, I saw many of these people from different national origins standing in front of the rotunda having their pictures taken with their son or daughter in cap and gown holding their UVA diploma open in front of them.

I was almost overwhelmed by what I was seeing happening around me. I was witnessing people becoming Americans and starting their journey in the US just as my forebears did starting after the War of 1812 until after World War II. I was seeing the promise of America being realized by first generation immigrants to the US. It made me feel proud to be an American and humbled to be in the company of people achieving their dreams in the US.

What made me think of all this, is that the US is now engaged in the biggest immigration policy debate in over a generation. There have been many demonstrations about the proposed policy changes. When I started this blog, I said that I would not use it for partisan political purposes. For the record, I don’t like either the Senate or the House versions of the immigration bills but I am not going to debate the merits or lack thereof of either bill. But I do want to express my thoughts of what I am seeing in the US that is disturbing to me.

I was very disappointed to see Mexican flags, flags with Che Guevara’s picture on it, signs demanding the creation of a Spanish speaking nation carved out of US territory, and anti-American slogans. What are these kids being taught? How do they ever expect to become a success in the US if they will not learn English or not learn the basics of American culture or if they continue to maintain their allegiance to a foreign country. In my family, we are very offended by people and organizations that try to divide us from mainstream America and make us a dependant minority. We do not identify as Irish-Americans or Anglo-Americans or Italian-Americans or Mexican-Americans. We identify ourselves as AMERICANS. We resent attempts to define us as anything else. My cousins who have Spanish surnames are particularly offended to be regarded as part of a helpless minority who needs a nanny government or an activist organization to take care of them as though they are incapable of taking care of themselves. My friends from Cuba feel the same way. I also have friends from Peru who are of Russian descent and friends from Venezuela who are of German descent. But because they are from a Spanish speaking country they are identified as Hispanic in the US. My cousins in Argentina are of Italian origin yet would be regarded as Hispanic if they came to the US. It just doesn’t make good sense to divide up Americans into subcultures. It makes it hard to succeed in the US if you categorized as anything else other than an American. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have pride in you culture and keep many of the customs and traditions of your heritage. Many Scandinavians in Minnesota keep many of their traditions but still are mainstream Americans. Immigrants from Spanish speaking countries can do the same thing. We do in my family.

We immigrated to the US just like everyone else from Europe did and don’t need or want to be made part of a subculture. The sooner immigrants regard themselves as Americans, the sooner they will become successful in the US. With hard work one generation starts out picking lettuce and the next generation is a lawyer. That is the way it was with some of my Irish, Italian and Mexican forbears. Some of the Irish started out as washerwomen or digging the subways. Some of the Italians started out as tailors or selling fruit and vegetables from a cart. A generation later they were doctors, lawyers, teachers and business people. That is what America is all about. That is how my family became an American family. And why this past weekend was so special to me.

As a parting thought, Memorial Day weekend is coming up. It is the time to remember all those in the military who gave their lives that we in the US would have the freedoms and opportunity that we have in the US today. It is the reason our families immigrated here. We should be grateful for their sacrifices.

JuicyBBW1001 56F

5/26/2006 5:01 am

I agree with your post 110%. As a native Floridian I am offended when I am told because I am not bi lingual that I can not work at a call center because I don't speak Spanish. If immigrants come to this country for a better life because it isn't working for them in their own country then at least learn to speak English. Why should we(Americans) always have to accomdate them?
I think all immigrants should be required to take an English as a Second Language class even before they are allow to take the Citizenship Test.
Just my opinion.

Juicy


MyHeartLost4U 53M
2304 posts
5/26/2006 8:51 pm

We should not only remember the Americans that gave and lost thier lives for our freedom and protecting our ways of life, but also remember the citizens of this planet from other countries that also helped in protecting our freedom and ways of life that lost their lives in doing so too.


themisskrissy 57F
2302 posts
5/27/2006 7:37 pm

happy memorial day!!!

Virtue Alone Ennobles


ThaRealLiv 44M

5/28/2006 12:59 am

My father never gave his life in tha vietnam war, but he did spend a full four years with tha marines, or so he says. He was never too clear to our family about some things that took place and what his duties were. I don`t know what tha reason for this is, but I am certain that it was in tha families best interest that we didn`t know. The story is a little fishy, because he said he spent tha full four years there, yet he also told us that he left tha marines to get outta tha war. My brother may know more than me, as he has told me things in my adult life that I never knew, such as tha fact that when my father was stationed in Japan, one of his duties was to bury tha dead. In that sense, while it may be true that my father never gave his life in tha war, he sacrificed an incredible amount of his innerbeing for America. Tha difference between my father and those who died, is that tha dead were rested and honored, while my father was alive and unacknowledged. As his life nears its end, he has nothing to look back on but broken dreams, a destroyed family, virtual solitude, guilt, shame, torment, suffering, horrific memories, and a sickness that receives no sympathy. Today he sits and suffers as tha world lets him go by unnoticed.
My father, at least that is what I have always called him since he raised me from birth, met my mother in BC around tha time I was born.
This would have been, oh I don`t know, maybe a year to 4 years after he got outta the marines, but I`m very roughly approximating.
Before joining tha marines, my father was raised by a carsalesman who dictated my father`s every move. If my grandfather didn`t like tha way that my father wiped tha table, he would scold him and tell him how to do it. When my father tried to do it tha way my grandfather asked him too, my grandfather would scold him again. If he did it right, he would scold him anyways, making up another way to do it. Whatever problems my grandfather had in his life, led him to be a chronic scolding dictator. My father once told me how it used to drive him crazy having his grandfather stand there and completely control him. I sensed my father`s youthful cries as nothing he did was good enough. I could see tha beautiful innocence of a child who kept all his hurt inside himself with no one in tha world to turn to. The only thing in tha world that he ever wanted was a woman. He wanted it so bad he could hardly bear it. Someone to understand him, and free his captivity.
When he left home he began to trian in tha marines where all tha friends he made were mostly male. This allowed him to discover much about himself, albeit the security he felt was predominately put there by fiercely trained males.
He was a large very muscular male, and had unbelievable strength and dominance over other males.
In my whole life, I have never seen anyone fuck over my dad. I think this is what gave him a sense of security.
However, he still had almost no ability whatsoever to relate to females, and longed for it as always. He had been rejected many times, as he had a crudeness about him which developed from tha society of male soldiers that he went along with.
Having no sisters, he virtually had no idea whatsoever how to relate to women. I`m sure there were many encounters with women along tha way in which he developed politeness and social skills, nonetheless, he did not get with his first woman until he was 29.
He was married to her for several years, before meeting my mother. The previous woman and my father related because tha woman also had an abnornal crudeness about her, which I do not know where it stemmed from.
My mother was an incredible exception to tha typical women of that era. While she was fully immersed in tha hippie scene, did lots of drugs, and basically floated where ever anyone took her, she had a heart of gold that went beyond any of tha social movement toward love at tha time. Many people preached love. My mother was love.
She was born in Arizona, and grew up in California. Prior to meeting my father, my mother was with another man who was tha true father of my sister. He`s dead now. In the brief period before my conception, they shared a plot of land in washington. Later in life my mother told me that she had tha sensation of being by a spirit, and there are some unusual stories surrounding my birth, that I should never let get to my head.
Shortly after being by tha spirit, my mother felt a strong desire to have a second baby, yet my sister`s father had had a vasectomy and was not able to give it to her. As they debated ferociously about how to deal with this, my sister`s father told my mother that it is vital that they go to Alaska. My mother tried to understand why, but he was unable to explain it to her, and she grew hesitant of him, probably thinking he`s wierd. He then said clearly to her. Ì am so sure that we need to go to alaska, that I will take this coin and flip it five times. If it turns up five times, will we go to alaskaÉ she probably hesitated alittle more before agreeing, but she finally agreed. He showed her both sides of tha coin and then flipped it. Heads. He flipped it again. Heads. Again. Heads. Once more. HEads. and Finally. Heads.
At this point my mother was probably stunned, and sure enough they set out for Alaska.
Eventually they would come to stay in a hippie commune, where people did LSD regularly, and tripped alot on who knows what. My mother was still desparate to have a baby, so they sought various members of tha commune to father my mother`s child. Tha first man that they covinced to have sex with her did not need any convincing. He was likely screamin Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee HAw at the whole idea of gettin laid. His name was David Aberly and was probably a native of Alaska. My mother does not believe he is my true father.
There was another man at tha commune who was very Mysterious to everyone. My mother told me that he seemed to captivate everyone with his presence. She told he that there was one time where everyone was running around doing things for him at once, as her husbamd made him pancakes.
At some point, they agreed that he would be tha one to father my mother`s child. His approach to my mother was much different from tha first. He was not doing anything to receive sexual pleasure, but rather had his thoughts more focused around getting my mother pregnant as she had asked. Shortly after they had intercourse, he went back to his home state. New York. His name is Roy Penhale. My mother believes that he is my true father.
The story of my life begins here.

ThaRealLiv


DIVISION77 41M
8337 posts
5/29/2006 12:04 am

Header,

Being Hispanic I see this from several perspectives.

Yes, I am assimilated and I wasn't raised traditional like most Hispanics so I don't have that experience.

What I do know is that the current backlash that the US is feeling from Latinos is due to being marginalized for decades.

Chicanos who revel in the idea of a spanish-speaking territory feel that way because they were here first. Why are so many of the cities and landmarks in the southwest bearing Spanish surnames? That is no small coincidence. The Aztecs and Mayans were habitating what is now California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas as the Native Americans were spread throughout the rest of the continent before Europeans invaded.

Did you forget that bit of history?

Chicanos who are activist feel alienated when the immigrant issue comes up because they feel they were here first and essentially they were. They see it as a way to discriminate against those of the same blood simply because of their status.

In some ways, that anger is reflected in the way blacks feel, only they were forced to come to this country. They had no choice in the matter.

Regardless of whether you feel being categorized as "Hispanic" divides rather than unites, that is the reality.

Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race. It's based on a language and culture and while each has its own inherent differences, there are also many similarities.

Mexican Americans outnumber Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Colombians and Dominicans combined in this country, so for political purposes, most of the issues pertaining to "Hispanics" are mostly dealing with Mexican Americans.

For better or worse, that is the reality.

I understand your perspective, but I am too much of a realist and have seen too much in my life to be fooled by this "colorblind" mentality that you seem to subscribe to.

I have also served in the military, so keep in mind I have done more for this country than many who would judge me.

I simply don't think this country is the land of equality, as you do.

I think there is still racism and I think that it taints this country.

That said, I do love this country for what it is, flaws and all.

I just wish people would practice empathy before they judge others.

So when I see someone wearing a shirt w/ Che Guevara or the Mexican flag on it, I don't hate on them for what they hold close. I don't necessarily believe what they believe or subscribe to their politics but I certainly believe they have the right to do so.

DIV

"My every move is a calculated step, to bring me closer to embrace an early death." -Tupac Shakur


header1979 38M
507 posts
5/29/2006 11:12 am

Hey Div,

I am so glad that you responded to this blog. I was afraid that you might not see and I would not get your perspective. I have read your responses in the past and I value your opinion.

I think those of us who are from Mexican families that immigrated to the Northeast of the US have had a different experience than those who immigrated to the Southwest and California. We didn't face marginalization nor did we live in large Spanish speaking communities. So we moved into mainstream America rather quickly but still retained our heritage just as other immigrant groups in the Northeast did (Italian, Greek, Polish, Ukrainian, etc.). The terms "Chicano", "Latino" and "Hispanic" have no meaning to us and are terms that are of relatively recent origin. The terms came into use after my family immigrated to the US and were never applied to us. I have a lot of friends from Cuba who refuse to use these terms to identify themselves. Actually "Hispanic" is not an ethnicity either. It basically identifies a large number of people from many different spanish speaking countries, ethnicities and races. The only commonality is the Spanish language and Spanish colonial heritage.

Not being from the Southwest I may not understand all the complexities of what is happening there. You cite the fact that most or many of the cities in California have Spanish names but that is not indicative who was there. These areas of the US were once colonies of a European power - Spain. That is why cities have Spanish names in these areas. It has nothing to do with an indigenous pre-columbia culture. It is why you find French names in the states that are in the Louisiana Purchase. Those areas were also a colony of a European power - France. And Alaska used to be owned by Russia. So the Spanish names are no indication of indigenous claim to the area.

I have never been clear as to who is indigenous in these areas. The Spanish conquistadors wiped out all traces of the previous culture. The only people in these areas who I know are Spanish land grant families. They are not indigenous but are Spanish colonists from Spain. We know that the non-Spanish speaking native American tribes are indigenous to the area but they have no connection with previous Aztec or Mayan cultures. The Spanish missions for which the California and Southwest cities are named were set up to convert the indigenous population to Christianity. But were these indigenous converts from Native American tribes or were they part of a previously existing culture that the Spanish obliterated? To further complicate matters, the overwhelming majority of Mexicans are of European Spanish and mixed origin. Studies conducted in some areas have found that there is very little indigenous male DNA in the population. The male DNA is from Spain. This tells a story from the age of the conquistadors that may not be too pleasant as to how this happened. Further, the identifiable indigenous groups in Mexico are discriminated against by the Mexican government and treated very poorly as second class citizens. With the enormous migration of Mexicans to the US in modern times, identifying the descendants of the indigenous population is just about impossible, and if it were possible, the number would be so small as to be insignificant. The point is that there is not much historical claim to this area by an identifiable indigenous population today. It is no more valid than for the descendants of French colonists to lay claim to territory in the area of the Louisiana Purchase.

I don't like the tenor of the rhetoric of the current immigration debate on either side. I ma particularly offended by rhetoric that makes it appear that our criminal problems in the US are the result of illegal aliens. If the statistics that I have seen are correct, there are about twelve million illegal aliens in the US and the number of illegal aliens in prisons are an infinitesimally small percentage of this number. It is actually smaller than the percentage of the US population overall that is in prison. Most of the illegal aliens in prison are from the MS13 gangs and other criminal enterprises and have no connection to the illegal aliens who came to the US seeking work. The overwhelming majority of illegal aliens in the US are hard working decent upstanding people. The only thing they have done wrong is come here illegally. And there are a lot of others who are complicit in this besides the illegal aliens. I have very conflicting views about this. Obviously we need to enforce the immigration laws. Obviously we cannot, nor should we want to, deport twelve million hardworking good people who are here illegally. I am part of the problem. I could never bring myself to turn in an illegal alien who is not involved in criminal activity. I have basically a " Don't ask. Don't tell." policy. I am quite sure that I must know some people who are here illegally. I would never do anything to harm them and would probably give them sanctuary. So there. I am part of the problem that everyone, including myself, is complaining about. I blame the US government for not enforcing or developing an immigration policy that would have prevented the situation that we have today.

Both you and Sheeana brought up the issue of judging people because they speak Spanish. It isn't a matter of judging people who speak Spanish. That is a person's choice as to how they will live in the US. It is a reality that if people cannot speak English that will not be able to get jobs or to enter mainstream American life. They are marginalizing themselves. DIV brought up the issue that Latinos have been marginalized for decades. But what is causing the marginalization? Is because they form large Spanish speaking communities in the US and are not developing the skills necessary to move into mainstream America? Or is there some external conditions that are excluding them from mainstream America other than language skills? I ask this as a question as some one who has never felt marginalized because of Mexican ancestry so I don't know the experience.

Div I hope that no one is judging you because you are identifying as Hispanic. That would be so wrong. You are an American just like everyone else who immigrated here. So are the other millions of people whose origins are from Spanish speaking countries. To think otherwise is just un-American. Those who think like that have the problem, not you. I too served in the US military and so did some of my relatives from Mexico who are not even US citizens. We are all part of this great nation and each of us is contributing to making it even better and greater.

I am very glad that you posted this perspective so that all of us who read this will have a better understanding of the issue. I agree that everyone in the US has the right to express their opinion and grievances and certainly we should not "hate" anyone for doing this. But I also believe that things like wanting a Spanish speaking nation carved out of US territory and maintaining allegiance to a foreign government is counter productive and will not accomplish correcting the inequities that may exist in the US.

Have a great Memorial Day holiday.

Take it EZ.

Header


header1979 38M
507 posts
5/29/2006 11:19 am

Hey Nick (Your Dream Lover),

Thanks for reminding us of those all over the world who have given their lives in the cause of freedom. I didn't mean to exclude them from our thoughts and gratitude during this Memorial Day observance.


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