I was finishing up my last couple hours of work this last Friday, already mentally checked out and embarking on a rare weekend off, when one of my fellow employees dropped this particular nugget of wisdom…,
“There are no African Americans in this country, except for those who have come here and earned their citizenship within their lifetime.”
So I let him stand there for a moment, all proud of himself, and then I asked, “so, you are also saying that there are no Mexican Americans, or Chinese Americans, or Irish Americans?”
His answer: “Yeah, if they’ve been here for a hundred years, then no.”
Huh, I guess the next time I visit San Francisco, I’ll swing by Chinatown and let them know. They are all just Americans, the same as everyone else, and it’s about time they started acting like it.
I remember being taught about our national heritage in grade school.
We learned how all those varied heritages — African and Middle Eastern, Asian and Slavic, Irish and German — they were merely ingredients for the great “Melting Pot”, the goal of which, as far as I could tell, was to distill away everything that was special and unique about them until all that was left was ‘American Culture’.
Or, as I would argue it, ‘until nothing was left at all’.
And the old “Melting Pot” has been very successful in its work. So many people in this country seem to have no greater connection to their ancestors than the seemingly arbitrary arrangement of letters that make up their last name.
And yet, for all that, my pontificating young associate is as wrong as he could be.
I spent most of this Saturday among fellow Irish Americans (and Scots and others besides) at the North Texas Irish Festival, held yearly in Dallas’ Fair Park.
Like many other ethnic communities in this nation, the survivors of the Celtic Diaspora have learned that in order to survive in the face of the accursed melting pot, you have got to market yourselves to the masses.
And so we have Leprechaun Elvis, ambassador of all things green and kitschy, and I don’t know what we would do without him.
Some may choose to cringe at all the plastic bric-á-brac lining the shelves of a show like this, but to do so is to court disaster. Interspersed among booth after booth of Guinness T-Shirts, are crafts people fighting to keep alive the arts of weaving, crochet lace making, ceramics, and weapon smithing. Here and there you will find gathered those dedicated to the preservation of the Irish language, history, and mythology. And it would be hard to overlook the musicians and dancers who flock to such an event, hoping to grow their audience, and the audience for Celtic music in general, beyond our own limited community.
And so I raise my glass…, ummm…, my plastic cup, and I salute you, Leprechaun Elvis.
May we meet again under sunny March skies!