Assimilation–some thoughts

It fails…everyone.



“Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resemble a society’s majority group or assume the values, behaviors, and beliefs of another group whether fully or partially.”

Wikipedia

Alchemy of flowers, spices, vegetables and a drop of wine makes an all too wonderful sauce. Melting pots are different because they separate the one from her identity. The things which make her and him unique dissolved into a stew. What advantage is there in homogenizing immigrants–what is lost to them, to us, to the wholeness that loves variety?

What remains is the longing for what you’ve abandoned in yourself–grief, you bet, yes!

Assimilation has also been referred to as Cultural Homogenization–It is an aspect of cultural globalization intending a reduction in cultural diversity.

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What then is the story that wants to be told through anyone’s uniqueness? through me? through you?
Weren’t we all once immigrants?
Weren’t we all once hostile invaders?
Weren’t we invaded?

I was never really ‘white’ never really wanted to be that generic, one-size fits all milk-toast identity grouping on applications. Applications for jobs, apartments, housing, surveys, sundry forms, what have you. Checking ‘Other’ didn’t cover it for me either. Other planet? Other Galaxy? Other sexual orientation, other dimensional, another type of animal, homo-erectus or feline. Yet, doesn’t someone love to classify, label, name and segregate disorienting one from their origins/ancestry and the wonder of diversity?

I can agree that I’m female, belonging to the largest and least represented category (along with children), the culture of woman. Doesn’t that culture span the globe? Don’t we have more in common than not? We search for the exotic and foreign through travel and outside of ourselves, when, in fact, the terrain within is vastly foreign, exotic. Carl Jung was one of our navigators through this landscape but he died and we were left stranded in a sea of distractions and technological advances. All of these diversions from what is going on inside and in the larger world over which we feel helpless to make a difference.

I would have felt more shame had my ancestors been the first to arrive on the Mayflower. I wouldn’t have wanted to claim that perceived glory. It was too close to the extermination of a race of people with whom I feel empathy. The indigenous ones only wanted to protect their lands, their people and the pristine quality of their lives–their connection to the earth–indigenously wise.

Nov.16, 2015
My ancestors came over from Italy and Ireland a few generations ago.
I am third generation here not so long–
Immigrated, assimilated–
but the dreams persist and
I resist the memories they convey.
I am here–America–
born in America.
Why then this strange chanting
in a language that makes me tingle
yet I don’t understand?

Nov.17, 2015
Because when she let go of her heritage, she let go of her birthright and the inherent magic.

Skin–shades of various tones. Beneath it, ah, bones, blood, organs–skin, what perceptions do we have based on shades of skin?

What perceptions do we have based on how much money? Having more money, or with less money, or without money?

Years–accumulation of years–what perceptions do we have based on how many or how few years one has lived on planet earth?

What perceptions do we have based on sexual orientation?

What perceptions do we have based on physical appearance? Height, weight…

On and on it goes, our limiting perceptions.

Once upon a time, I married a young Hispanic man. I gave birth to two daughters. They resemble their Mexican heritage physically. They are also Irish, Italian, French and German. Their father did not grow up speaking Spanish although both of his parents were fluent native speakers. Was there a shame in bringing the language forward? The dream was to have your children be assimilated, an American, and it was presumed that the native language would link them to something undesirable.

Today, when my daughters are in the company of other Spanish-speaking Hispanics and it is discovered that they don’t speak the language, they are looked down upon by the native speakers. Yet, because of their appearance, they are devalued by the “White” ones. It’s all very peculiar, isn’t it?

Forget Perfection

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
― Salvador Dali

 

forgetperfection2

This face is hiding amidst my journal pages–a practice piece.  She looks worried…or sad…her eyes a bit glossy.  Has she been crying?  This is not a perfectly drawn or crafted portrait.  With that, she conveys something, doesn’t she?

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Several years ago, one of my younger sisters held her wedding in Lake Tahoe.  As many of the eight siblings as could get there, gathered with the newlyweds to celebrate.  When she and her new husband were leaving the celebratory party we had staged, as they were getting into the elevator, her new husband made a comment about my sister not being perfect.  His comment came across as derogatory.  I looked at him and I said, “She’s the perfect Robin (her name).”  Isn’t that what any one of us can aspire to be…the perfect you or me?  Or him or her?

How does one even establish a standard for PERFECTION?  It seems that we need to measure it against something that’s been confirmed–(the highest score) or someone else (a society’s idea of beauty)?  So to describe perfection, we make a comparison.  In science, that might work.  But in a world of variety, diversity, melange–in the sheer array of humans on the planet, how can one even begin to establish a standard of perfection?  If we consider that perfection is overrated or invalid, what can we strive for?

Ah, to be you and me, each in his/her own wholeness, what greater thing to design for yourself!

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When making art, there is the artist, the substrate, the paint, the brush and what begs to be expressed through the artist.  Art is one avenue to express the emotions that want to run away with you.  And there are so many deeply felt emotions during these days of pandemic.  An artist is able to transmute a deeply felt emotion into a creative action through making art.  The chemical response in your body as you make art is felt.  Try it, don’t take my word for it!  And please do forget perfection.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen

A Day in the Park

Going north to Ashland, Oregon, without a particular plan, I experienced a day of variety and flow.

Her face
finely chiseled ivory
a cameo portrait
hair woven in braids
and curls piled high
tattoos traced her arms and any bare skin
her clothes were colorful, soft and flowing
her expression–lost in another time and place–
her fingers played the keys of the accordion
while she pumped the bellows gracefully
the soft, insistent, melancholic music
forcing its way into the heart’s land
I placed a few dollars in the accordion case
and she barely nodded as I said “beautiful” and
“thank you.”
I walked into the park
the loud tones of a man’s voice
rose over all other sounds
as he swore and beat on the man
lying at his feet on the ground.

The man on the ground was curled in a fetal position.  His arms and hands shielding his head as a circle of young men gathered and held back all at once.  I hurried two curious young girls along the path catching them up to their mother who finally said “They didn’t need to see that.”

I found a park bench in the shade beside the duck pond on this overheated day.  I marked the rentals in the newspaper out of habit and hope. I watched the mother duck and her nine, count them, nine ducklings being herded here, no here, no there, keep up–the fluffy-headed, wide-eyed ducklings.  “Yes, mother, oh yes mother, oh!”  They do respond to every barked order.  Survival is a serious business and this duck pond, for better or worse, is their home for now.

At a neighboring bench, someone said that the old woman was part Cherokee.  She weaves baskets out of pine needles!  Her old fingers do such fine work and she’s so proud.  She only learned two years ago.  She outdid her teacher…it’s in her cells this knowing how to weave baskets.

I approach the basket weaver.
“Do you teach classes?” I inquire.
$50.00 a person.  Gather some people.

I want to learn from her.  It’s obvious that she knows how to live a fulfilled life.  Teach me that, please.  She touches my arm as if a touch can impart such wisdom or is she reading me?  Her eyes show neither humble senility nor prideful superiority–only a quiet wisdom.  Yes, teach me soon, I’ll pay.  Her daughter, works in a salon, files fingernails.

The pianist in the ice cream parlor trying to sell me his cd.
“I really just came in to buy ice cream,” I emphasize.  I buy a cd, finally, for two thirds of the price–he’s a good salesman, but can he play the piano?

I got the last haircut appointment in a little shop off the boulevard.  The perfect cut.

This day held all a day could hold, all that life could hold.  Beauty and violence, the extremes and beauty prevailed.

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Do you ever choose a day of flow without any particular plan?  Have you written about it?

The Versatility of Poetry

This is one reason I love poetry.  It can hold any subject.  Poetry is both amorphous and  it can claim a form.  It’s a perfect container for a variety of human expression.

the fog weaves through city streets
in and out of the avenues
twining round golden gate bridge towers
dampening moods and refreshing spirits
what season is it, I ask
summer you say, summer in San Francisco
coaxing one to build a fire on the hearth and cuddle
fog deceiving one into false seasons
Is it love I feel for you or
simply lust
long shrouded desire
and you the sun that penetrated my dark nights
stripping me of my clothes, my inhibitions,
tricking my hormones into believing I was unseasonal
everlasting
and so sexy

© by Christine O’Brien

In this short verse excerpted from a poem I wrote entitled Weather Report, notice how a story is told using place and mood.

Were you drawn into the story via the setting?

Each and every poem has a point of entry.  As does any story.  The writer and/or poet gets to decide what that entry point is.

Writer’s Prompt:
Experiment with using a place as the point of entry to your own poem as you write about an emotion you are feeling.

Follow the flow of your writing.