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.