Monday, January 25, 2010

Heritage is Hereditary

(Pre-Script: This post will leave you weeping for the Motherland if you read it as the song, "Superman," #9 on the playlist, plays in the background. Go down to the playlist, click on that song, then come back and resume resume reading. I'll wait...) (...still waiting...)

I have always liked the idea of having a cultural heritage, probably because I have never had one.
I have no sense of an "Old World," or "The Old Country" about me, the Place from which my Impoverished ancestors got on a boat, or the last helicopter out, and and landed here, on these United States of America.
Where did I come from? Who knows. I am as generic American as generic American can get, world without end, amen.
During my growing up years, it was hot to be Italian. All of those with Italian bloodlines seemed to have some sort of extra specialness, just to be able to say, "I'm Italian." It didn't matter if they'd ever been to Italy or not; having a bloodline was cool, and seemed to give them an edge; an attitude; a golden glow on their rich olive toned skin. In the '80's, it was important to be able to get a tan, so this was a distinct genetic advantage.
I've never really known what I was; as far as I know, I'm a muddy mix of everything so that none particularly sticks out; a gray and murky and mysterious American mutt, in which unknown tendencies for disease and disorders mutate and reproduce. There are no particular cultural holidays that I have celebrated with extra vim and vigor, with pride that I am, YES! An Irish girl on St Patricks Day! For example. I do like to add "Canadian" to my lineage, since I have Grandparents who came down to this country from up above, in that country, but people just laugh at me when I tell them this. "That doesn't count," people say, or "That's just like saying you're American," they say.
Um, I say that, too.
I have this one friend who is totally Irish, on both sides. (The front AND the back.) hee hee, Ahem. But seriously...the first time he asked me about my cultural heritage, I bumbled out an answer..."Um, I think I've got some English, Scottish, Germ-"
"English? That's it, then we can't be friends. The English and the Irish do not get along. The English were horrible to the Irish."
"Um, I'm never even been to England, and I think Ireland and Irishness is completely cool."
"Yeah, but didn't you see 'Braveheart?'"
Easy, William Wallace. I am not the British Empire, or any empire, of this century, or any century. I did not start or end your war with this or that country, cause your droughts and famines, your slavery and predjudice. I am not that influential. Trust me. Like I have time to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, dress up like a man wearing a kilt with nothing underneath, and commandeer a 4 legged animal across a grassy field while wielding a sword at-whatever or whoever is on the other side of the field. I am not that coordinated. I am not that revolutionary. Please.
I'm just a girl who gets up and washes my non distinct pinkish skin every day. My natural hair color has always been the most universal brown naturally occurring on every continent. Never mind that over the years I have colored and highlighted it every naturally occurring color a person's head can produce, so as to fit the any or none culture class to which I apparently belong.
But I am not a huge lady brought over to this country as a gift from France who stands on a pedestal holding up a lantern with a sign that says "Come to me, bring your poor, your tired, your downtrodden," to which many boats flock for encouragement and assurance. Like I have the patience for that. Like I have long enough arms. I am not William Wallace, circa 1490 or whenever, I am not the Statue of Liberty, I am not Jesus, who, besides being the Son Of God in the flesh, was Jewish.* So do not come to me for any of these things, I will sorely disappoint you. I am just an American girl with a questionable past.
Although recently, one of my brothers mentioned that our family has at least some traces of Irish. Say What? Irish? That country that doesn't get along with the English we also apparently contain? Well then, look at me, a walking history and geography text; a walking contradiction in so many ways. Who knew. Looks like I'm going to have to call my Irish friend and say, "Cousin Irishman, how the heck does one cook corned beef and cabbage? Looks like I'm going to be celebrating with you on March 15th as an insider this year." and he's going to have to start calling me "O'Michelle," or "McMichelle," whichever flows more naturally off of his Irish tongue.


*If I have any Jewishness in me, I have yet to learn of it, although I would not be surprised if I did.

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