I was at a party last weekend with a very international crowd: the hostess was Italian along with many of her guests and there were guests from Japan, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Peru, and probably other countries I'm forgetting. And, of course, there were Americans including me. Several of these Americans were part of Fieri, an Italian-American young professionals organization. Which brings me to my post topic.
I got in a bit of a heated discussionwith the woman from Romania who was essentially laughing at how Americans claim their heritage, such as being Italian-American. This was after I explained that I'm Italian, Polish, Slovak, and Slovenian. "You are all Americans, nothing else," she said. "You don't even speak the language." I vehemently defended us, saying she just couldn't understand since she wasn't American.
I explained that while, yes, first and foremost, I and my fellow members of the Italian-American group were Americans, our heritage also defines us. Our families act differently, eat differently, and have other differences from, say, someone whose family came over on the Mayflower or from a Cuban American (this is in my mind now, having just come from Miami!) or a Chinese-American.
I found the funniest part to be when her partner (husband?) who was American (of Russian descent) said "Well, then, you've been here ten years. You're no longer Romanian." :)
This conversation stuck in my mind long after the party. I thought a lot about how so many people, from different cultures can come together and make a country. It makes me incredibly patriotic to think about it. There are so many cultures--both from every immigrant that has entered America hoping for a better life and that exist within our own nation now. For example, people identify as "Southern" or a "New Englander" or a "Pittsburgher" and this means something, becomes part of our being.
I just find it amazing that wave after wave of immigrants have come here against all odds, and bring the best of their culture to share, and eventually, America embraces them and makes them her own. We're tied together by belief in working hard, in belief in a better way of life, in belief of freedom and that despite the flaws, a life with freedom and justice is better than one without. We have pizza and tacos and bagels and vodka and egg rolls, among other culinary treats. American music, too, is an amalgam of every culture that has passed through, from that of those slaves brought here from Africa against their will to the salsa beat of those from Latin America.
I'm far from hearts and sunshine when I think about America--there are many problems and things that need fixing--but it's a pretty amazing experiment we have here, and one that I'm proud of despite the flaws.
*apologies to Violent Femmes. Trying to be cutesy in post titles ends dangerously.