A Typical American

When my son made his first visit to Thailand to meet my future daughter in law’s family, we sent along some family pictures by way of introduction.  My daughter in law later told me that her family  remarked that Brian’s mother was “so beautiful” and “did not look like a typical American.”

First off, I was mightily flattered.  Rarely do middle aged American women think of themselves as beautiful, and certainly no one around here refers to me that way much anymore.  But then, as is customary for me, I started thinking about the comment a little more, and had to smile.  Because, whether or not I’m beautiful, I’m definitely a typical American.

Genetically speaking, I am a pure amalgam of ethnicities.  My father’s Armenian genes were mixed with my mother’s array of Scotch-Irish-German-Jewish-Native American DNA.  The resulting potpourri of nationalities is representative of every “true” American.  Every one of us is the composite of the hopes and dreams of our ancestors from all across the globe, who converged on this great melting pot with hopes of a brighter future and a freer civilization. Whether our Founding Fathers intended for it to happen this way or not, American has been from her inception a place where people desire to come and create a new life.  From the moment Christopher Columbus set sail, until this moment in 2011, American is a beacon of hope for thousands of people.

In light of the Arizona shootings – another tragic violent event, one with overtones of  political polarity, bigotry and hatred-Americans are called upon to remember our origins and how we all came to be here.  None of us are “native” to this country.  Every American, unless they’re 100% American Indian, has an ancestor who “belonged” in a different country.  But those ancestors all came here with a common dream, a belief in the ability of a people to self govern with decency and justice.

President Obama had this to say in his remarks at the memorial service for the victims of last week’s shooting…

Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

In the end, all of us – white, black, man, woman, Democrat, Republican – have more in common than we do apart.  We all believe in the power of the American dream and we all want it to work for us and our children.  But it can never be realized to its full potential until we learn the lessons any successful kindergarten has to learn – to respect one another’s differences and get along.  Let that be the mark of the typical American of the future – someone who has the humility to know that not one of us is “better” than another, and that we can achieve more working together than we can apart.


8 thoughts on “A Typical American

  1. Well….Mrs. Rowan. Even though you and I are both true Americans, I still think you’re beautiful. Always have and always will! 🙂

  2. Becca, I completely agree with you: learn what we should have learned in Kindergarten about getting along. It’s so funny (sad, I mean) that these lessons start at a young age and are often never fully learned. As we observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on Monday, we’ve started a unit on him in my third grade class. How I hope to convey his message, and Ghandi’s, about love conquering hate to my eight year olds.

  3. I hate to bring this up, but… I live in the midst of people who most assuredly don’t believe in the power of the American Dream. They have no desire to engage in hard work, assume personal responsibility or contribute to society as a whole. Some are white, some black or Hispanic, some Democrat and some Republican or independent – but they’ve become accustomed to dependency, and it’s not good for them or society as a whole.

    Now. That doesn’t mean they’re evil, or beneath contempt. But I do think that until we acknowledge how deep the real divides are that run through our country, we don’t have a prayer of real reconciliation.

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