During the past 10 days I visited family and friends in my home town in Southern Idaho. The trip also included a family reunion with my wife’s family at a campground in Island Park, Idaho, just west of Yellowstone Park. We had a wonderful time at the reunion and we focused on family history. Like my family, my wife’s family is made up of mostly Welsh immigrants who joined the church in Europe and then immigrated to the Western U.S. along with other church members. But unlike my family that is exclusively Welsh, my wife’s great grandmother was German. I enjoyed hearing the stories of those brave families that settled the west.
During my visit I heard about the controversy created when Idaho’s Congressman Bill Sali complained publicly that a Hindu prayer was offered in the House of Representatives. His comments essentially said that America has always been a Christian nation and that God has protected America from its enemies because we have been a Christian nation and that if we encourage and promote diversity in our nation, God will lift that hand of protection. I’ll get back to that comment in a moment.
Last night I was watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and I was amused when Ian Miller, the boyfriend/fiancé of the Toula Portokalos tries to speak Greek to his future father-in-law, Gus, and Gus responds with disgust in Greek saying something like “my people were creating language when your people were still hanging in trees.” I’m sure I’ve got the quote wrong but you get the general premise he was trying to make. The movie portrays a Greek culture full of life and vigor while Ian Miller’s family culture, most likely English, is reserved and stale. My wife and I commented that the difference between these two families, while exaggerated and animated, is not unlike the difference between her family and mine. When my parents have visited us they have basically said, “We came to see you and we don’t want to see any of the local sites.” (We live in suburban Washington DC) But when my in-laws come I have to take extra time off to rest after they leave because they want to do everything.
All of these rambling thoughts have me wondering. How will the diversity of the United States serve us in the future? Will the “melting pot” be a strong force after the United States has fallen from grace or will our lack of a common culture be a weakness? OK – I suggested a dreadful thought – the United States may someday cease to be a world power, but the Greeks and the Romans were once great powers as well and today they are just average. By that I mean they do not dominate the world as they once did. I guess I’ve been dismayed by the events of the past six years and have actually given thought to the possibility that our fate might be the same as those once great societies (maybe that was the wrong term to use.)
For the record, I am disgusted by the remarks of Congressman Sali. I think one of the greatest aspects about life in America is the ability and opportunity to experience many cultures. I am proud of my Welsh heritage but I celebrate the cultures of all people and hope to be able to experience many more than I already have. While I consider myself a “Christian” I reject the idea that we are a “Christian nation” with all of the bigotry and hatred that accompanies such a title. And let’s face it, there are many “Christians” who claim I am not a legitimate Christian because I am a Mormon. If we cannot stand side by side with people of all cultures AND religions then I believe we have lost the principles upon which our nation was founded. And so I am embarrassed that Congressman Sali, or anyone of his ilk, is representing my home state.
But then again I wonder what would happen if the United States became just another country in the world instead of the superpower we are today. Would our diverse culture sustain us the same way that the cultures of Greece or Rome or any other country in the world has sustained them long after they have fallen from power? If at a future date, an American citizen decides to immigrate to the next “melting pot” – say Australia – would our “American culture” be as strong of an anchor as the Greek culture was for Gus Portokalos? What are your thoughts about our culture? Do you hold on to your ancestral background or do you just consider yourself an American like a friend of mine at church.
My apologies to anyone who might be reading this from another country, but I would welcome your comments as well.