In some significant ways you are right about the importance of
language for cultural continuity. Recently there was a PBS presentation
about NEW YORK City. One of the themes was urban ethnicity.
Irish-Americans, for example, were portrayed as maintaining their social
cohesion to the point where Tammany Hall could get many things done for the
needy and eventually help produce Al Smith, a fine NY governor.
One of the things the NY Irish-Americans learned is that being 100%
Irish or Celtic doesn't work. It doesn't get enough votes. It doesn't help
other people who are worse off than one's own. At that time,
Italian-Americans and Jewish-Americans in the labor unions, and children in
factories, amongst many groups, in particular.
I think Americans have learned to compromise somewhat. There is
little pure ethnicity in America today. Maybe there's some irreducible
minimum, an arbitrary 65% to 75%, Some personal combination of genes, learned
values, friends, family ties, and holidays. We Americans have our problems,
But we do manage to skip most of the worst interethnic divisions, as in
Northern Ireland, East Timor, Bosnia, or Kosovo.
Many Anglo-Americans have had to compromise too. Some graciously.
Some not. But a just and honorable peace is good, even if 100% pure
ethnicity and/or the old tongue elude one's grasp.
I suspect that one reason that Irish-Americans gave up their old
tongue was because they had the Irish in Ireland to keep it up for them.
Helping to build American and Canadian labor unions and political machines
required all their ingenuity. Perhaps those big St. Patrick's Days Parades
are (partially) imaginary trips back to old Ireland, where magically we will
all become comfy Irish again and escape the complexities of interethnic
peacekeeping. Just a walk to a pier and wee ferry ride away and all the
social change will abate. Happy Thanksgiving to All!