The "dehyphenization" of America
It is the American way. We cry, we laugh, we mourn, we laugh, and eventually we will recover because we can laugh. But we may never forget.
The world looked on with amazement during Election 2000 while America dealt with as serious an issue a republic can face. Various foreign leaders predicted the demise of this great nation and certain civil war, but amidst the partisan anger and angst we surprised them all with a lesson in U.S. Civics 101 -- and we laughed.
A little less than a year later, the tragic events of September 11, 2001, took our country and its people by surprise. Amazingly, as a nation we eventually found our way to laughter. It just took a little longer.
When the late night talk show hosts stood before the American public and on national television presented their comedy routines filled with Osama jokes, the laughter could be heard across our country. It was a unifying chorus filled with the resolve of America's fearlessness and faithfulness in the hope that all would be well once again. And we knew and expected that in some ways our nation would be even better than before because we, as Americans, know and understand the truth -- and we can laugh.
Before September 11, 2001, our country, long referred to as the "great melting pot of the world," had allowed complacency and apathy to cool the furnace of patriotism to the point that this great pot was no longer melting.
People from every race, creed, and color have found sanctuary in the United States. Unfortunately, many have struggled with the American identity. This intellectual or maybe even emotional inner conflict was salved with the well-meaning stroke of the politically correct pen, and the hyphen became all the rage.
I can recall with perfect clarity the day when as a young child I traveled with my family from Pearl, Mississippi, to Biloxi, Mississippi, so my mama could stand before a judge, raise her right hand and swear a pledge of allegiance to her new country. Even though I know that I benefited greatly from growing up in a multicultural household and I respect the right of those who choose differently, I have never once heard my mama refer to herself as a hyphenated American.
Whether one might be an Italian-American, Japanese-American, African-American, Mexican-American, or whatever-American, as much as it matters, it shouldn't matter. This great melting pot of a nation wouldn't be what it is today without the benefit of each and every culture that helped build it.
Among other things, last September we learned as a nation that it is OK to be "dehyphenated" Americans. That we are who we are because we are simply Americans and we understand how to cry, mourn, and eventually recover because we can laugh.
In my office hangs the Swiss flag my mama's family gave me, and on the wall of my den hangs my Italian birth certificate, but my heart is filled with proverbial hotdogs, apple pie and, of course, lots of laughter.