Monday, August 23, 2010

The Melting Pot

There are so many fascinating aspects of Family Law that I think I could write about for ages, albeit sporadically.  One of the fascinating aspects is the question of what is a family.

Families come in an almost infinite range of hues, attitudes, preferences and origins. Some families appear homogenous, but as I am increasingly discovering, there is no such thing.  And homogeneity is a question of the definitions you impose. 

"Our family is of European origin," is both limited and broadened by that geographic reference.  Not that long ago the identifications would have been much more specific.  "Our family is of Irish origin."  Or, "our family is of German origin."  Or, "our family is of Italian origin."  Now it's "European" by convenient definition and often of necessity.  It's "European" because the European countries of origin have melted into a broader, more inclusive base in America.

"Our family is if African origin," is also a convenient definition.  Not only does it ignore the not so subtle differences from different regions in the African continent, but also ignores the apparently not so infrequent and often unwelcome intrusion of European ancestory. "African origin" is also a convenience because it may belie the centuries that the ancestors have been in America, far longer than many descendants of European ancestory.

"Our family is of Hispanic origin," is a similarly broad definition that spans many cultures and lattitudes.  Mexico is distinct from the Dominican Republic which is distinct from Guatemala and is distinct from Argentina or Chile, which says nothing yet of Brazil, which does not consider itself Hispanic with its Portugese ancestory, but is often so defined by those of us less aware of the identities.  But, for the sake of convenience, and for the American experience of the melding of cultures, "Hispanic" is the bandied about term.

"Our family is if Arab origin."  Again, a conveniently broad definition disguising intricately distinct  populations, rendered less so by their migration to America.  And this doesn't yet include persons of Persian descent.  And I haven't even touched on people of Asian descent or Polynesian descent, or Native American descent, the true originalists (especially the Iroquois). 

And, of  course, each of these identities, some self imposed, some imposed by others, all gross in their  description and ever expanding in their fuzzy edges form, only begin to contemplate the function, purpose and great success which is America. 

As a boy here in Georgia, I have witnessed anti-miscegenous indoctrination carried out with ruthless, bloody cruelty. And now, as a man, I watch couples not only walk hand in hand, but marry, have children, watch their children welcomed and embraced into our larger culture, whether the children come from parents of apparently similar backgrounds, or obviously diverse backgrounds.  Our ancestoral identities change day by day, merge generation by generation.

I'm not suggesting that all is a bed of roses in America.  I wouldn't be writing tonight's blog if that were the case.  Today's version of the anti-miscegenist is the xenophobe.  While racism in all its insipid forms still flourishes in quaint corners of American culture, the current cause celebre for the divisively inclined is to narrowly interpret what and who is American.

Without equivocation, the American family looks like America. We are black. We are brown.  We are tan.  We are pink.  We are yellow.  We are Christian.  We are Muslim.  We are Jewish.  We are Unitarian.  We are Atheist.  We are hedonist.  We are self absorbed.  We are utilitarian.  We are selfish.  We are generous.  We are having a teenage meltdown.  We are having a mid life crisis.  We are bounding for childhood joy.  We are espousing the wisdom of sages.  We are demagogic.  We are all embracing. 

With the exception of the Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants.  We can't help but be.  We are and always have been a nation of immigrants melting in one giant, ceaseless pot.  Ever shall it be.

And we are one, big happy family, whether we like each other today or not. 

We, collectively are and rightfully shall be America.  And like all families, we ought to have each other's backs.  For united we stand.  Need I say more?

Michael Manely

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I'm surprised how well your mind works while you're half asleep! Glad you pressed on and shared your message.