Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Roots (Why Do We Care?)

So, today is St. Patrick's Day. I am quite fond of this holiday. I am half-Irish (the other half is Mexican). My husband is also half Irish. We joke that with Baby, we made a WHOLE Irishman. Baby's first name is Irish and his middle and last names are Italian. We briefly toyed with an Italian first name but figured that would be overkill. And since Baby is blonde and blue-eyed, I think we made the right decision.

I think Americans are especially fond of tracing their ethnic roots. Why is that? We have such a fascinating mix of people in this country and we are all proud to discuss our roots. I knew a Frenchman many years ago who complained about this American preoccupation. He said that I should shut up about being "Irish" or "Mexican" because I am really just an American. He didn't understand why Americans tend to go on and on about their backgrounds.

With the internet and other technologies and global businesses, our political boundaries are getting blurred. Globalization is changing the way we relate to one another. As a result of this phenomenon, there has been a slight rise in nationalism. People are clinging to their unique qualities as a nation and a culture. I have always loved studying other cultures and religions because I think one of the wonderful things about human beings is our natural diversity. The things that make us different are really beautiful. What a boring world it would be if we were all the same!

The United States is a young nation. It is truly a nation of immigrants. Someone once said that you cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have been. I'm sure you have also heard "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I think it is important to learn about your roots. Our individual and common histories show us how we came to be in this particular spot in time. And, sometimes, knowing your ethnic roots can help with medical issues.

I pursued my master's degree in anthropology because of my love of culture and my interest in the diverity of human beings. There is a silly little Phil Collins song that was in the Disney movie called "Strangers Like Me." I love that song because I think it describes perfectly how we should look at each other. We may not always understand why people do the things they do but, ultimately, we are all human beings and we are beautiful in our differences.

So, Frenchy, maybe I am not really Irish. But somewhere in my genealogical background, I have Irish ancestors. I'm proud of that and I'm going to celebrate it.

Erin go bragh!

1 comment:

Literary Feline said...

I think you raise good points about why Americans are interested in tracing their roots. I've always been interested in knowing more about where I came from and those before me.

I'm such a mix of so many things. It's been hard to trace parts of my family because of that. I'm not half anything. Not even a quarter anything. It's probably more accurate to say my roots are mostly European. When I was a child, I always wished I could be more of one thing than another. It didn't matter which, just as long as I could claim to be a part of some group. Now I realize that's part of what being American is and I'm much more content about my diverse family history. That hasn't taken away my desire to know everything I can about my roots though--it's all so very fascinating.