17 December 2011

Quien tu eres

Oh America
Briella Santiago

The American identity, if it even truly exists, originates in many different forms and ideas. They are based on fact, straight-up lies, exaggerations and somehow all of these all at once. They generate from many different countries. Voices give truth to a typical sometimes unrealistic stereotype. These ideas come about from the way we present ourselves, how we define ourselves or how others want us to be defined.

On a micro and macro point of view America is viewed as the root of greed. The government is constantly trying to find ways to extract natural resources from third world countries. America is never satisfied with just relishing in her own success. She is forever going into other countries and trying to push American beliefs on those who don’t need or want them. Everything that goes against her beliefs is viewed as something that needs to be destroyed and rebuilt in her Image and her people are worse. They are lazy fat gluttonous slobs who sit in front of the television all day getting life handed to them as they die of obesity, while more than half of the world is starving to death.

Americans are stupid. They have never worked a hard day in their lives. Their idea of strife is when the internet connection falters slightly, or they missed that brand new episode of Jersey Shore. They know nothing about the world around them. China and Japan have long since passed the United States in intellect. With all the opportunities presented to them Americans insist on indulging their mindlessness.

Americans are unappreciative of what they have. Even with their families fully intact and basic human rights that people are dying for in other countries. Americans take it for granted and constantly criticize and bitch about a government that protects not only their lives, but their right to vote and live in a peaceful crime-free environment. Clean water and an abundant food source is not a right, it’s a privilege, and yet most Americans waste food or water for the fun of it.

Americans are all beautiful and glamorous. We all walk out of the bed in the morning with pin-straight blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and a glowing tan, even during the winter months. All our people are beautiful and skinny. We are physically perfect, therefore we lead the perfect lives. We get the best jobs, have the most fun and marry the man (or woman) of our dreams. America is just one big party full of rich and gorgeous people.

What human nature doesn’t allow us to realize is that you can’t make a generalization about a group of people by the way an individual acts or carries themselves.  People are unique and cannot be judged by the actions of the majority.

There are many American people who are well-educated, who yearn to discover, who have a passion for giving back to others, who have experienced success through hard work and determination rather than looks or power. America has its corruptions like in many governments. We are blessed in many ways; not all of us take our gifts for granted.

Most of my mother’s childhood was spent frolicking on the sandy showers of La playa de ponce, a beach twenty or so miles away from Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico. My father was raised on the lasagna and baked ziti of Sunday dinners at his Nona’s house, right after church, during Sunday football.  Both of them found their way to the heart of Spanish Harlem. My father used to deliver milk to the boarding school my mother was sent to shortly after she made her trek from the countryside of her childhood to the mean hard streets of northeastern Manhattan. I couldn’t tell you exactly who they are anymore but I can offer up pieces of myself as part of their stories. I am a reflection of their past, a constant reminder of who they were. I am a mestizo, the typical Nuyorican.

Pregnant with a white man’s baby at fifteen, my mother became the typical American statistic even before she could speak the native language of this country. My dad, smitten with her exotic looks and na├»ve hopefulness for the future, never left her side. He spent endless hours satisfying her craving for the food of her home land, empanadas (beef patties) and rice with beans.  Not fully aware of the social standards in this country, her family celebrated and welcomed my birth, the addition to the family tree. She proudly displayed her growing belly in form-fitting maternity dresses and cut-up tank tops.

I came to this country from Buenos Aires, Argentina, at age four and I haven’t been back since.  My father left the big city to play soccer in Argentina with my mother. I guess it was a type of honeymoon, a way to escape the scrutinizing eyes of his family. Impregnating a 15-year-old girl at 26 is frowned upon and punishable by law. According to my father, however, my mother was by no means a child. It’s one of the only things they’d still agree upon to this day.  When he had met her, she looked 18 and told him in her broken English that she was in her early twenties. She doesn’t look upon him as the thief of her childhood or a molester. By the definition of Puertorican culture, her childhood had been stripped from her at age 13. She had long since become a woman, before even seeing my dad.

My mother gave me up to my father, for a chance at a better life she says. He had a home, an established business, and his family had a stability and knowledge of the typical American dream that she knew to be unachievable for her family and friends. She encouraged me to succumb to a different way of life, to grow up a typical American child.

My transformation began on Long Island. I came to my father speaking in Spanglish and fragments of broken English. He sent me to a special preschool for the chance at higher learning, early development and study skills it preached. It was there that I lost my accent, that I came to embrace the English language and abandoned the prattle of Spanish tongue.  Rice and carnita sandwiches became peanut butter and jelly. I no longer cooled myself in the summer by running through the streams of broken fire hydrants in the street, nor did I spend my Saturday mornings watching telemundo.  Still on occasion I yearned for the warmth of the tropical sun and the upbeat lull of bachata music. I missed the vibrant shades of orange and yellow as the sun set and night time cooled the air. I missed home.

Home came to be defined differently as I aged and allowed myself to become part of Caucasian culture.  In school I stopped speaking Spanglish and eventually the Spanish language became dormant through my lips, but never in my mind. My light brown hair and porcelain skin allowed me to blend evenly with my peers.  I went to dance school, joined pottery club, girl scouts, and took swimming lessons, horseback riding lessons and soccer. Never once did I look back to my roots. My mother cut off most contact with me, not wanting to interfere in my transformation or stunt my growth in any way, shape or form. My step-mother was Dominican, so occasionally I'd find myself prattling to her in Spanish quickly, but typically she encouraged me speak English and indulged my father’s desire for Italian cuisine. 

Although the area I grew up in wasn’t too segregated, I got a scholarship to a ritzy private school. Most of them were unaware of my lower finances or Hispanic heritage. I tried my hardest to never let on that I was different. As far as people were concerned I was your typical all-American girl.

After I graduated from the private school that ran from kindergarten to 8th grade, my plans to attend St. Johns, a private high school, fell through and I ended up in a normal public high school. It was there that I learned to embrace diversity and not shun who I am. There was plenty of everybody in that school. In fact Bay Shore senior high school won awards for its diversity and encouragement of acceptance of all people.  Bay Shore ranks as the 3rd most diverse high school in New York State. As I grew and met new people, I learned that to embrace one culture and lifestyle does not mean to completely disregard another. Part of being a typical American is embracing all that you are and everything you wish to be. America is a melting pot. You could never truly define the typical or generic American because it varies.  I would consider myself the typical American teenager. I listen to my iPod and I eat fast food, I shake my hips to a Spanish beat and I never forget who I am or where I came from.

America is the true definition of beauty, a place where the evils of the world cannot touch those who enter her realms. We offer a sense of freedom and stability. Our country is a shining beacon of hope. The very reason many decide to keep trying.

We are diverse. In many places in America, there are a wide array of cultures, groups, religions and sexual orientation. America takes in the oppressed and unwanted and offers them a place of belonging. Many of these people go on to find their place in a community so full of choices and diversity.

In reality, although we preach diversity and advertise a cultural melting pot, most of us live in segregated areas. Whether the difference is racial, cultural, monetary or religious, we are taught tolerance and not exactly acceptance. Often reverse discrimination occurs. We try too hard to be accepting of different people and end up exploiting and bending over backwards not to offend the group of people. Instead of actually welcoming them into the community, we gawk and make them feel more out of place then at home.

Success is a tradition. In America, there isn’t a child that goes hungry. We are a generous people. There are jobs available to all without the barrier of discrimination or sexism. America is truly a place of equal opportunities Judgment is rarely, if ever passed.

The government provides every one of its citizens and refugees, a place of safety. They are non-hostile and unconcerned with things of monetary value. They rarely bother with pretensions of war and usually stick to the business of the country. Their main focus is benefiting the people and working to improve within themselves.

For the most part, the government is filled with corrupt politicians whose main interest lies in making a quick buck.  Heck, most Americans don’t even realize the true nature of the politicians whom they support.  Most of what goes on in political elections are rarely covered by the media. The media portrays the political meat puppets in the light of their choosing. Charisma, a promise of “boosting the economy” and a couple of millions, is really all that is needed to win a major election. Notice that nobody from any other political group besides republicans and democrats get any media coverage during elections.  I doubt that many people actually spend enough time away from their iPhones and whatever other mindless overindulgent electronics to actually do the proper research on other candidates in the election. 

Americans are never unsightly. They take care to exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Their diet is crafted to keep them alive and fit rather than for entertainment of relieving of boredom. Nor do they starve or throw up to achieve an unreasonable standard of beauty. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. America is a place where that’s something you'll never forget. We appreciate people from all walks of life regardless of religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Of course the media constantly bombards us with images of what we are supposed to look like. Constant ads featuring dangerously thin models who represent maybe 2 percent of the women or men in the world are used to represent body ideals.  Ironically, after watching a commercial for the newest diet pill and ways to mutilate and emaciate our bodies, the very next thing that comes on commercial for taco bell, think outside the bun. Make up your mind, America! You want my waist to be microscopic and yet, at every stoplight and corner I turn, there’s a McDonalds.

Most of all ,we’re all a very honest group of people. We would never invade another country and exploit their people for a disposable useless good. We wouldn’t make children and old women work 12-hour shifts without breaks for less than a penny a day. In fact here in America everyone lives in a little wooden cabin and works hard to make their own clothes

We aren’t known for our cruelty or callousness at all. In fact none of our people are self-absorbed mindless media zombies who parrot every subliminal message spoken to them. We research things before calling them a fact and entertainment is under no circumstances put above basic human rights. Oh no, we’re the absolute definition of perfection.

Our culture on average is way too self-oriented to even begin to comprehend any of these issues. Most of us would rather sit here in our perfect little bubbles and entertain our petty little problems than look at the world around us and realize that the definition of tragedy is not in fact your lack of internet connection for more than 5 minutes.  We turn a blind eye or refuse to dawdle too far away from our ignorance to try and make an impact in the world. It’s all about us, all the time.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the very first step towards our undoing. Think … the fall of the Roman Empire.

Cheers ;)

 ** smiles a stepford wife smile**

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