Thursday, November 11, 2010

[Fill in the Blank] American

I am a Filipino American.

I am a German American.

Someone I know from the internet as a visible tattoo of the German flag and he gets comments from people written in German. They assume that because he has this tattoo he is German so they assume he can speak the language. He can’t.

Elsewhere on the internet, in a comments section of a news article, there was a little flame war which ended with one of the guys saying that he was a Scottish/Irish American. The guy that he was trading with was from the UK and said that he was an American period and that he can’t be all three.

In the US, it is common for someone to say that they are this kind of American or that kind of American and it must be perplexing to Europeans as to why we go around saying this. How can a person be a German American and not speak German? How can a person be a Filipino American and not know how to eat fried chicken with a spoon?

I sometimes think on how I can make any claims on my Filipino, German, English, Spanish, and Scandinavian heritages. Any ties that I have to those places and cultures are tenuous at best. When I lived in the Philippines, I was not recognized as one of them. And in any real way, I don’t think of myself as being one of them either.

I am an American and when it comes down to it, I think that most people here feel the same way. What we like to do is remind ourselves of where we come from. Most of us are descendents of immigrants and as we cannot lay claim to a culture that has been sitting on this continent since time immemorial, we lay claim to the cultures of our ancestors.

The question of what is American culture has been asked to me so many times. The only answer that I can give is that I don’t know; it’s still in the process of being made.

1 comment:

Kapitano said...

A good post, and some non-tangled thoughts.

Here in the UK, the question of "What does it mean to be British/Scottish/Asian-British/Gay-Irish etc." is endlessly discussed and never resolved. Not surprising, as the only thing every person in a country has in common is geography.

I think groups of people - and individuals - start trying to define themselves by inventing inalienable characteristics when they feel under siege. Which leads to the question: Why should America - the richest, most powerful country in the world - feel under siege? Who exactly does it feel threatened by?

It was only a few years ago your country and mine had medias full of fear about...afganistan? Otherwise sane people were saying Europe was about to be invaded and overrun by a few hundred men with camels and ancient Russian rifles.

I don't know why most of the world seems to be living in fear of something Lovecraftian in its indefinability. I don't really understand why some English or Canadian people can get outraged when someone calls them European or American. I just know that when people get obsessed with National Identity, it's a symptom of something toxic.