Tonight, I’m going to share with you an essay I just wrote for my Cross-Cultural Perspective Master’s Class. Please remember that this was an assignment, so if it seems long or . . . I don’t know, boring . . . that’s maybe why. However, my hopes are that it seems neither long nor boring.
Cultural Identity: Who am I?
Who am I? I am an American, a Pennsylvanian, and a 20-something Christian. In addition, I am a girl, a teacher, a former athlete, a blogger, a Turkish resident, a wife, a daughter, an aunt, and a student. Time does not permit me to explore the many facets of the cultures that accompany each of these roles I play, but I will briefly examine the first three.
First of all, I am an American. I am patriotic. I love the 4th of July and fireworks. I love the flag and the national anthem. When I travel, I will proudly tell anyone who asks me that I am indeed American. Am I ethnocentric? Yes. I call myself an American to the exclusion of both Canada and Mexico which are also technically American as well as all of South and Central America. If I were to be specific, I would say that I am a North American resident of the United States of America. But, I do not go through the hassle. I am an American, and you know what I mean. Football and the Superbowl, baseball, apple pie, Thanksgiving bowl games, Christmas carols all hold a significance for me because they are part of my homeland. These are the things I feel relate me to the rest of my fellow Americans. If you are ignorant about the very basics of any of these topics, I will doubt your actual residency in my country of origin. It has been through traveling and noticing the vast differences between foreign lands and my own that I have been able to see more clearly the things that define me as American. My view of time, the individual, equality, and purpose differ vary from those of other countries, and as much as I may appreciate and take to the ideas and values they hold to, I will never quite be able to shake my own ideals and values. I am an individual. I have rights in my own country. I can be my own person. I am independent, and once I have proved that, I will hold tightly to my friends and family and hope to never lose them.
I am also a Pennsylvanian. When I went to school in Wisconsin and married a Colorado boy, I started to realize what this meant. I was raised to believe that Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address in the back of a moving carriage, and when someone told me that he actually had five copies of it written before he ever set out for the battlefield, I felt he was attacking the very essence of my history in this country. My field trips were places like the Gettysburg battlefield and the Liberty Bell. I feel like an important part of history by being a Pennsylvanian. I watch movies like National Treasure and proudly point out all of the landmarks that I have been to and know about. Cowboys, the Louisiana Purchase, the Gold Rush? I am sure we covered them in history class, but really, what importance do they hold next to the signing of the Declaration of Independence! I see multiculturalism in my state when I drive down the road and wait until we get over a hill so I can see to pass the horse-and-buggy that is in front of me. The Wal-mart near my high school had hitching posts for the horses. I could leave Wal-mart and drive thirty-five minutes to the center of the city where there were frequent Hispanic shootings and home disputes. Then, I could finish the fifteen minute drive to my own home in the white, upper middle-class suburbs. We have a persona in Pennsylvania. We are driven by time. We are often quiet and not as outgoing as people out West or down South. We order our food on touch screen menus so that we don’t have to talk to people. We say soda, hoagie, and pocketbook and apparently pronounce orange and horror strangely. And none of these things bother me.
Finally, I am a Generation “X” Christian. I am often accused of having a short attention span as evidenced by things like twitter and Facebook. It is said that I can’t develop real life friendships, and thus resort to technological friendships. People think we are less intelligent than previous generations. But I will tell you that people in my generation are already doing more than many of their parents ever achieved. Greatness is more accessible through discoveries on the internet, but it is harder to achieve because now everyone is a celebrity, everyone is a writer, everyone is a singer. Memory is so much easier with the access to instantly saving and sharing pictures and notes, but it is also shorter because it is quickly swallowed by the millions of other memories that are also shared and saved within minutes. I have more opportunities because of the time I live in, but often that is overlooked by the generations before who don’t understand the way the world has now begun to work. The world is smaller now. To become something great, I must be able to utilize the resources I have. I must be able to pitch an idea in 140 characters. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube are all changing our world and our society, and though some view that as a dumbing down, I will tell you that I have to rise to the challenge to be an intelligent functioning being within the confines of limited attention, technological relationships, and an ever-growing pool of competition regardless of what goal I am pursuing. As a Christian, I often find myself confused in my culture. The things I read in the Bible and apply to my life are often counter-cultural, and not just to mainstream American culture, but even to previous Christian cultures. I am constantly asking questions, listening to people whom I respect, and trying to figure out how to live my faith in a world that does not always agree with me.
This is who I am. I am like a million other people, and yet unlike every other person in this world. I am cultural being defined by my beliefs, my traditions, my ideas, my language, and my values.