Cultural Angst: A Self Exploration

Growing up in Colorado in a predominately white town, with white friends, and white neighbors I was never, as a child, confronted with my heritage in any big way. I was always told I was of German decent, and as a child my grandparents were the only true connection to my roots. I can remember visiting an iconic German deli in Colorado Springs with my grandparents and eating German food whenever we would visit them in Pennsylvania. For the longest time all I could relate about my heritage were the names of funny sounding foods like; spaetzle, schnitzel, and sauerkraut. Even then I knew one couldn’t reduce a culture to its cuisine, but I hadn’t anything else to go on. There has always been a hole in my life, in my identity, where a heritage should go. I didn’t feel German, or even Scotch-Irish for that matter; I didn’t feel anything and didn’t know who I was. It is this suspension in the cross-cultural currents of modern day America, this angst, which has always put my self-identity in question, but if I was unsure who I was, I knew, it was imperative I find out.

America, in the twenty-first century, is a cultural mixing pot full of widely diverse and interesting people. Take a look at a city block in any major U.S. city today and one will realize just how very diverse and integrated we have become. Though it is true we are not finished integrating by any means it is undeniable to say that American culture is not filled with ethnicities from across the globe. Along with this progress, however, comes homogeneity; as people are swept up in the culture, language, and daily life of America people often forget about their culture, their history, where they came from. In this reading, one is met head on with the realities of cultural ties and the way they are quickly slipping out from under us, as the generational gap between Americans and their roots grows wider. As generations go by and families’ homelands are slowly drowned in the past, it is easy to forget where one’s heritage lies and they end up losing their connections altogether. This, unfortunately, has happened to myself, as a fourth generation German-American I hardly feel German at all and only truly identify with the American in me. Homogenized society has turned it’s back on the cultures of the past and as a result Americans more than ever before know too little about who they are and where they came from.eedless to say this type of unknown identity is unnerving, I didn’t like not knowing a part of myself. In this way, I was out in the world without a clue who I was and all around me people stood up tall, proud of their heritage. I want to be like them, to have a rich familial history and to feel proud of where I came from. In my family, however, those ties had been cut a long time ago; every part of my history was either dead or dying as I became increasingly wrapped up in today losing sight of my roots. I had, and still have, what I call cultural angst, a

Needless to say, this type of unknown identity is unnerving, I didn’t like not knowing a part of myself. In this way, I was out in the world without a clue who I was and all around me people stood up tall, proud of their heritage. I want to be like them, to have a rich familial history and to feel proud of where I came from. In my family, however, those ties had been cut a long time ago; every part of my history was either dead or dying as I became increasingly wrapped up in today losing sight of my roots. I had, and still have, what I call cultural angst, a phenomena of deep uncertainty about myself and my culture in relation to the world around. This entire semester we’ve read about how important it is to understand our own history, and the people and places that shape us; so when I think about my heritage I have nothing to do but to admit I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me in order to reconnect.

Despite the fact that to this day I have no strong connections to my past, I am not lost anymore. Of course, that cultural angst will always linger, I know I will never have as strong a connection with my roots as some people, but I’ve finally found my cultural identity. I am an American. Through all the country’s ups and downs, through all the struggle and strife, I’m still proud to call America my home. I’m proud of the great, big sweeping landscapes, I’m proud of things like lumberjack breakfasts, and especially the bustling metropolises filled with diverse and wonderful people. Ronald Takaki in his closing words in Strangers From a Different Shore talks about the ways in which all Americans can draw from any culture and any history.

Finally, I have realized that America is full of all kinds of cultures who have fought and struggled for the luxuries we all enjoy today. This country is full of history and as an American I’m steeped in it; Asian, African, European, Middle Eastern: it is all my history as long as it is in connection with the United States. Every sit in, every rally, every strike, and labor dispute made America a better place and enriches not only the past but our plans for the future, and this is certainly something I can identify with.When I think about history and my identity I’ve come to think of one thing: America. I think of the history of America and how proud I am to be a part of it all, and how empowering it is to know the struggles of the past and to take on the future with the same fervor that my predecessors had. Sure, I might not identify as German, or Irish, or even Scottish; I’ve lost those places to annals of time, but if there is one thing I know it is that I certainly haven’t forgotten who I am, and the history that brought me here, the history of America.

When I think about history and my identity I’ve come to think of one thing: America. I think of the history of America and how proud I am to be a part of it all, and how empowering it is to know the struggles of the past and to take on the future with the same fervor that my predecessors had. Sure, I might not identify as German, or Irish, or even Scottish; I’ve lost those places to annals of time, but if there is one thing I know it is that I certainly haven’t forgotten who I am, and the history that brought me here, the history of America.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s