Nation and Culture

On the one hand, the United State has a dominant WASP culture.  The powers that be are still, on the whole, white Protestant males.  And many, I can say, think of America as being a WASP nation, and consider anything else to be, at best, suspect.  Why else is there the persistent rumor that Obama is a Muslim?  As if being a Muslim were proof that he is un-American. It wasn't long ago when being from Ireland was un-American.  Éirinn go brách.

On the other hand, we recognize the variety of cultures that make up this nation.  Melting Pot and all that.  These cultures could be ethnic heritage, national origin, religious practice, religious heritage and even variances of regional norms:

We may have been here for over 100 years, like the ethnic Koreans of Hawaii, or over 200 years like ethnic Africans brought over into slavery.  Or even recent immigrants like my family.  There are those, that on the surface fit the stereotype of an American but are clearly from another country, like Ahnold.  When I walk down the streets of my little town, I can't go but a block without seeing a black American woman wearing a burqa.  Even those that may not practice their religion clearly harbor the cultural norms instilled in them - like those who dress up for church on 2 Sundays a year.  When I went to graduate school in St. Louis, I was shocked at the regional differences in manners and speech from my Pennsylvania ways.  And anyone who has crossed the Mason-Dixon line will immediately feel the difference. 

And we're all Americans, right?  Different cultures, one nation.

Maybe the Melting Pot is only nice in concept.  NIMB: Not In My Backyard.  It's all nice to have "interesting" folks around, but don't make me have to smell their funny cooking, or try to understand their accent, or translate documents for them.  Maybe the Melting Pot is only nice if it looks and smells like mashed potatoes.

Today I heard that former Senator Santorum said, in effect, that if Puerto Rico wants statehood, they have to speak English.  He said this in Puerto Rico.  To Puerto Ricans.

I'll let you take that in.


I hope he knows there's no such provision in federal law.

[Oops, I think I'm breaking my guideline for succinct posts.]

A nation of monolinguals may, of course, consider language to be merely a flamboyance, like a fancy scarf.  Leave it in the closet, unless you want to make others feel uncomfortable or show your disdain for them.  Language is not a feather boa.  It's a ladder.  To your soul.  The more languages you know, the more you can know.  It's like love - the more you love, the more you can love.

On the one hand, Americans seem to be proud of the Melting Pot.  On the other had, Americans seem to insist that things melt into White.  Mashed potatoes.  Or would that be English?  Is English the line in the sand?  Stand on this side of the line and you're American.  Stand over there, and you're un-American.  Unpatriotic.

Must we be a nation of Either/Or?
Because me?  I want to be a nation of Both/And.

One nation, many cultures.

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