Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Parallel Query

I found a post on another blog that examines the dwindling of a culture...both in real numbers of people in the race, and in the observance of the culture. The writer went on to talk about how it was important for her children to experience that culture and the physical land firsthand...and asked the question at the end about how to maintain (and I am assuming increase, if possible) the number of people in that race, and how to hand down the precious and incalculable values of their heritage.

I really enjoy this person's blog and find her posts stimulating and honest and provocative. And my heart melted as I perceived a bit of sadness and loss as she wrote and reflected on how her race/religion has suffered as a whole and as she imagined that it might one day slip into oblivion through tragic and horrific acts of the past...and apathy and neglect of the future.

And as I read it, I realized that I feel the same feelings about the heritage of this country.

STOP HERE -- THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS COUNTRY THAT COMPARES TO THE DEVASTATION AND HORROR AND EVIL ACTS OF THE HOLOCAUST. I AM NOT COMPARING THE TWO...I AM MERELY LOOKING AT THE LOSS OF A CULTURE.

I pulled this quote from her blog...But something I have noticed lately that disturbs me is that we are losing our numbers through assimilation and/or apathy. More often than not, you will hear someone say, "I am a cultural Jew," or "I was raised Jewish, but do not practice it." And then it slips away, slowly, bringing something so rich and beautiful to an undescribed halt.

Is this not what is happening to America? I was born in America, but I really don't agree with anything here. They have the right idea in France. -- or -- I am AFRICAN-American...I am MEXICAN-American... I am *insert nationality here* American -- when said people have never stepped foot out of the United States. It seems as though we all enjoy the bounty of this nation, but we don't want to weave it into the fabric of who we are. Instead of wearing our American citizenship as a proud and important vestiment, we pull it around our shoulders during a rain shower or dust storm, hoping no on will notice what we've draped around us for cover.

There are so many Americans who are born here, and raised here...but they don't practice it. They don't understand the freedoms that we have because they don't know anything different. They don't know that there are countries in the world where women would be stoned to death if any part of their body showed. That there are countries in the world where children are sold for the sex trade. That there are countries in the world where this type of open communication would result in my entire family being brutally murdered and all my possessions being burned or sold. They either don't know...or they just don't acknowledge that WE have the choice to sit nice and comfortable here in America all the while complaining about how much it sucks.

I agree with my friend's blog that apathy is the worst and most devastating kind of destruction. It is like drifting from the seashore only to look up and see no land in sight and have no idea which way to start rowing.

Perhaps the young Jewish people she refers to are so far removed from the atrocities of what their families went through that they can't understand why their traditions and belief systems are so vital...so important...so significant.

And perhaps the reason for the drifting from American values and beliefs is because they have provided us so much freedom to express ourselves that we have forgotten that the very things we complain and protest against are the very foundation that gives us the right to do so.

So as I read my friend's blog...I was sad for her. Then I was encouraged for her that she is doing something proactive and encouraging her children to explore and appreciate and embrace their heritage. And I was glad that she made me look at my own heritage and culture...and it really made me look at whether or not I am doing the same for my children for both the faith and culture that shape who we are.

8 Comments:

At 2:44 PM, Blogger mireille said...

such a good point about "I'm an American but I don't agree with much that's going on these days" and that apathy is a slow road to cessation of something you love. thanks for this.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Whit, thank you for your kind heartfelt words.

To me, comparing the Jewish issue with the American issue is like comparing apples to oranges. Judaism is first and foremost a religion, not a race or a culture. What is dying are those who call themselves Jews in that sense of the word.

As for the American issue, in many ways, I see our country today offering us less rather than more freedoms than we had before. Certain lawmarkers and special interest groups are making attempts to chisle away at women's rights and the rights of individuals based upon their sexuality. We just went through, what in my opinion, was an improper use by Mr. Bush of his powers where he attempted to create a special piece of legislation for a family, overriding the courts and the laws of this land. Not to mention that he is making every effort to amend the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme law of the land.

Americans today, in my opinion, have reason to be upset. I used to put an American flag in front of my house every year. The past two years I have not. With so many dying to fight a war that we have no business being involved in, it is difficult to be proud to be an American these days. Our role models speak mis-statements and untruths, and then try to minimize them, how are these individuals setting good examples for our children.

Apples and Oranges...

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger Whit said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 6:07 PM, Blogger Niobium said...

I am an Irish American, English American, and Portugese American yet I have no idea what it means to *be* Irish, English, or Portugese. None of my grandparents speak the languages of their parents who came to the US and wanted to be Americans. My great-grandparents (and beyond) so totally abandoned their heritage that they left nothing for me to chew on or learn from. And that makes me infinitely sad.

Who is to blame for my lack of heritage-knowledge/traditions? Me? My parents? Grandparents? Great grandparents? American society for *insisting* that immigrants shed their centuries old ways to assimalate to their new culture?

Is America the Borg: resistance is futile?

 
At 6:22 PM, Blogger Whit said...

Oh heaven's no -- I am not insisting or even suggesting that anyone shed their heritage to become some homogenous pot of hyperglorified Americanism!

That is precisely what Barb was talking about on her blog -- of losing what makes the Jewish people so special and unique. What I am talking about is the complete throwing out and discarding of ANYTHING to do with America because of a dislike of the current administration or a raging social or cultural debate.

My husband's family is from Ireland...my family is German and American Indian among other things. But we don't walk around calling ourselves Irish American or German American...because we aren't really. It's in our blood so to speak...but it is not who we are. We don't practice any customs or speak any different languages...we are American. And part of the beauty of being an American is that you can come from anywhere in the world and be here. It is a choice and privilege to be here.

I just sometimes observe and feel like there are those who would get rid of everything American because there is some little piece of it that doesn't fit their viewpoint.

And that happens in religion, too -- all religions. How many people (myself included) pick the parts of the doctrine that are easy and don't take too much work and then kinda do the buffet thing on the others because they take a little more work, or a little more introspection, or ruffle my plans a bit more, or hinder my 'fun.' The point is...there are things about this country that don't always go in my favor, but for the most part...most of the time...it is a GREAT place to live! And as far as religion goes, I am finding that the things that test me, that make me struggle and really think about what I am doing, turn out to be the things that make me a better person. (hopefully)


I chose not to post my thoughts on Barb's site because it was such an offshoot -- so tangential -- to where she was going that I didn't want to equate the two.

(And as we learned from Jean Luc, the Borg can be infiltrated and escaped.)

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Whit,

In my own dia-tride, I seemed to have lost your point completely, about the heritage issue.

I am sorry.

What I thought you were asking had to do with why we should not be proud to be Americans.

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger Whit said...

Barb - I knew your post was extremely personal to you, about the religion of Judaism -- which is why I didn't want to tag my thoughts on to it. Because I can't even begin to identify with the Jewish people, your questions turned my thoughts to what I do know. I drew it as a parallel only in what it sparked me to consider as I read through your post.

It also made me think of an acquaintance of mine who was Catholic and "became" Jewish. They never attend synagogue...they aren't kosher...in fact, I'm not sure what 'makes' them Jewish except the fact that they renounced Jesus but didn't want to go so far as to deny G-d. (His words, I kid you not.) It made me sick that he would use the name of the Jewish religion to describe his "anti" beliefs, because there is so much more to Judaism than 'not believing Jesus as the Messiah.' Sorry -- I guess my point in mentioning that is that I agree with you that there is something heartbreaking and irretrievably lost when people take the 'label' of something and discard the values and the traditions of it.

 
At 9:09 PM, Anonymous SusieQ said...

Whit, I like what you write. I like the way you think and express yourself. Not to embarrass you, but I find you to be a kind, comforting person. I have placed your blog in my "Favorite Places." I intend to return.

 

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