Friday, March 17, 2006

Consider it a SHAM-rock...

I'D LIKE TO wish a happy St. Patrick's Day to all. And, as a further adjunct to our discussion of self--and in further demonstration of my uncanny knack for turning any occasion, no matter how festive, into a solemn introspective ritual--I wonder how many of you define yourselves by your ethnic/racial/religious heritages and roots? And if indeed you take pride in such backgrounds...well, I'd like to know why. I'd like to know what it is that you feel your heritages really have to do with you as an individual. Or maybe--more to the point--I'd like to know what they should have to do with you, in your view. Why take pride in our forebears? Why groom our kids to be chained in some way to their ethnicities and the like? Instead of, say, encouraging them to find their own paths as blank slates, of a sort?

I've told this story before on this blog, but I am of Italian descent (or maybe Italian dissent would be the better spelling, given what follows), and when I was still very young, my father would try to stoke my ethnic pride by telling me all these laudatory stories about DiMaggio and DaVinci. Even then, I recall thinking, But Dad, if I want to take credit for DiMaggio and DaVinci, don't I also have to take the blame for Capone and Luciano? I guess I always felt it was best to be judged on one's own merits.

Nonetheless, I shall be lifting a glass of green beer and eating corned beef before the day is done. I exhort you to do likewise. And if you attend office parties or what-not, please get your selves home safely.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My mother always took great pride in selected parts of our ethnic descent--the more aristocratic parts, naturally. But to me, our point(s) of origin seemed irrelevant--too many generations removed, perhaps--except as they might have shaped the way my ancestors lived and thought. However, I was always fascinated by the stories of my ancestors' lives and achievements--not because they're any reflection on me, but because I'm proud to be a link to those who came before and rose above. It makes me an ongoing part of a small stream of human history, and gives me flesh-and-blood role models to aspire to--models and a history that are both very real to me. (Somehow, "You should try to be like your great-great-great grandfather Thomas. He was a great man!" has a bit more immediacy than "You should try to be like Napoleon. He was a great man!" Especially when one has grown up on stories of the colorful exploits of great-great-etc.) For what that's worth!

Steve Salerno said...

Suppose one has no forebears to be proud of? Suppose one's forebears were tyrants, misanthropes, barbarians, or worse, politicians? And I wonder: By defining ourselves in some small psychic way in terms of those who came before, do we not subtly limit ourselves as well? If we are "proud of" g-g-g-grandfather Thomas, and grow up thinking we are supposed to emulate his qualities (and maybe share his beliefs and worldview) doesn't that in some sense shape (limit) our thinking on the qualities that are to be admired/believed generally? Is that a good thing?

Anonymous said...

For every Dimaggio there is a Capone. For every DaVinci there is a Luciano.
Viewing the development of the Irish diaspora in The U.S.A. from overhere it seems that for every P.J. O Rourke there is a Bill O Reilly and for every John F. Kennedy there is a Ronald Reagan.
Do Newton's Laws extend to human development? Maybe there is a self-help blockbuster in there somewhere.

Steve Salerno said...

And for every Rush, there's an Al Franken...well, maybe not.

Not *entirely* sure I get the Newton reference (cut me some slack; I'm working on an hour's sleep and truly massive amounts of cold meds), but I'm willing to entertain the point, with elaboration...

Anonymous said...

Newtons Third Law of Motion - To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Steve Salerno said...

I thought that's what you meant, but you threw me with your context of "human development." I wondered whether you meant it in the individual sense (i.e. "actualization") or with respect to mankind as a whole.