Monday, February 6, 2017

Lesser American

Kintala stayed anchored in No Name long enough to enjoy another weekend party. The harbor was as empty as we have ever seen it on Thursday morning, with just five boats scattered here and there. Friday was quiet, even Friday night. But by mid-afternoon on Saturday the harbor was full and the wall boasted boats rafted two deep for most of its length. America having a good time. Except...

According to current American mythology most of the people around me were not “real” Americans, certainly not “real” when compared to someone like, well, me. Admittedly Spanish was the language of choice, with much of the music echoing across the harbor being Spanish as well. In spite of that, everyone I stopped to talk with spoke English as well as I do, with many of the younger people chatting happily away in English as well. The music switched back and forth between the two languages, and people sang along with the tunes either way. It was clear that the vast majority of the people around were bi-lingual. That would make them both better educated, and likely smarter, than I am. How does that make them the lesser American?

Deb speaks Spanish, as do two of my daughters. I would like to speak Spanish. Are they lesser Americans than I? Will I be a lesser American if I ever master the skill?

Many of the people around had slightly different physical characteristics than mine. Some sported slightly darker skin, others had a different cast to their facial features, with darker hair and darker eyes. That wasn't much of a surprise. I am pretty much the whitest of white bread, with most of my ancestors hailing from places like Germany, France and Ireland. Indeed, so far as I know all of my ancestors more than three generations past were born on a different continent than the one I claim. Clearly many of those at the party were of a different lineage. Their ancestors lived on this continent a thousand generations before my ancestors even knew this continent existed. Their genealogy has its roots buried deep in this land, back into the ancient mists of time and history. How does that make them less American than me?

What ever else Kintala might be, she is a modest kind of sailboat. More than thirty years old, pinched at the stern, with a generous amount of tumblehome and low freeboard. To anyone who knows much about boats she is either a “classic” (if one is generous) or a “tired old boat” (if one is tasked with keeping her in ship shape). In No Name on a party weekend, she is also akin to a partially restored VW Van surrounded by Corvettes and Porches, with the occasional Lamborghini rumbling by to turn heads. When it comes to consumerism, the American Dream, and making it big, the party goers in No Name are clearly more dedicated to the cause than the crew of Kintala. They likely pay more in taxes than I spend in a year to eat and buy boat parts. How does that make them the lesser American?

Most of the gatherings in No Name on a weekend are obvious family groups. Kids play like kids do everywhere, teenagers play coy like teenagers everywhere, parents watch, grand parents dote, grills grill and dogs bark. The dynamic is the same as that in any back yard in Kansas or any park in Iowa. According to the demographics the people in No Name for a weekend party are less likely to divorce than those in Kansas or Iowa, while being more likely to take their religion seriously. They are family-oriented and god-fearing.

Yet, somehow, many believe that those from Kansas and Iowa are, like me, more the American.

A myth they share with the the President of the United Sates of America.

My guess is none of them will ever be American enough to realize just how wrong they are.

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