As we mull over hyphenated Americans and what is American culture,
you've all helped me understand its unique nature. People have come to
America generally seeking religious, economic and/or political freedom.
This has been true through her history, regardless of who it is
that is coming at a particular point in time.
Many who came did not willingly abandon their homeland or their culture.
They felt they were forced into exile by political, religous, or economic
conditions they could not hope to overcome.
I propose that part of American culture is remembering and cherishing
the old homelands. In the remembering we are even more American. Odd,
but that's how we seem to feel -- speaking as someone whose mother's family
is proud to have fought in every war this country has had but is just as
proud of Irish roots and Irish culture. I am coming to think that
our hyphens define us as Americans. They define why we came and
what we valued. Hopefully we still value something besides golden arches....
The determination of the American Revolutionaries to fight for what
they beleived they did not have as English citizens still accounts for
the differences between the USA and Canada and Australia. You could
leave the Isles and migrate throughout the empire and still be a British
citizen: ie: experience no identity crisus, not have to rethink your
ethnicity. On the other hand, coming to America meant leaving behind
a lot of the past and striking out for something new, which makes you
nostaligic for the past, all the same.
Or maybe it was too cold in Canada or the fares were lower to Boston :)
In summary, the hyphen is a big part of an American's identify.