16 October 2013

On Being Greek, Jewish, and American

The student who wrote this wished to remain anonymous.

Section 1:  Identifying Myself

Starting off with the basics, I am a 19 year old female college student. As a typical college student, I have been involved with many clubs and organizations on campus including Sigma Kappa Sorority, club soccer, Orchesis Dance Company, and Student Association. On the weekends, I like to do what many college students do when the stress of the week is over and the freedom of the weekend comes over us, celebrate with some festive activities! I have a major in International Relations with a concentration in Peace and Conflict, and a double minor in Spanish and Political Science. I used to have a second major in exercise science, but by the words "used to" it's pretty clear how that worked out. I'm a sophomore, a Sigma Kappa 'til I die, a dance enthusiast, a gym rat and sports fanatic, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, quite possibly an unknown enemy, a Dean's List student, and most importantly the only one like me in the world.

I know I'm a sophomore in college with majors and minors declared, but as you can see with the exercise science major speed bump in the road, I still have no idea what I want to do in this world. With so much pressure from academic advisors and my parents to find what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, I can't help feeling that at the ripe old age of 19, it's okay not to have every answer. I do know, however, that I was put onto Earth for a reason and it is my goal to spend the rest of my life figuring out just what exactly that is. However, I do have some pretty interesting goals in my life. With the obvious first, change the world for the better in any way I can. With my International Relations major, I am hoping to go into diplomacy. Foreign affairs and international relations has always vastly interested me so I think it's pretty cool that I get to study it!

I am Greek. Yes, I am a member of the Greek system; however, I actually am really Greek. My grandparents were born in Chios, Greece, and I am a second generation American. Some people don't even know what their heritage is, let alone celebrate it, but being Greek is actually a pretty big part of my life. I have been to Greece, and my whole family is a pretty typical loud, big, lots-of-food, Greek family. We all speak some of the language and cherish the traditions we have.

I am a Jew. I went to a private Jewish school from nursery all the way to 11th grade, when I transferred to the public high school for various reasons.  I have been to Israel multiple times, and see it as a home. My mother's sister lives there with her husband and four children and multiple grandchildren. The majority of my friends from my private school studied in Israel for 1-2 years post high school, pre-college, as my sister did. I have an immense faith in my Judaism and it is without a doubt one of the most crucial aspects of my identity. I have been a victim of anti-Semitism, disregarding the common "Jew jokes" that seem to always find a way into most of my conversations with others. Being a Jew, in the eyes of some I somehow am personally responsible for the entire Middle East conflict that has begun way before I was even born, an incredibly cheap person, and shockingly have a normal sized nose. Despite all of the digs and minority stabs, I am a proud Jew.

I am an American. Born in the formerly known Harris Hospital, now named Catskill Regional Medical Center, I am a citizen of the United States. I hail from a small farm town in the Catskill Mountains, Bethel, NY, home of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. I'm an incredibly proud American knowing that just from being born on this soil, I have the rights set forth by the founding fathers of this democratic country. I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and of course the only two things promised in life: death and taxes.

Section 2:  A Significant Experience--9/11
On September 11th, 2001, there was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Two planes were hijacked and flown directly into the Twin Towers. Many Americans simply hear the term "9/11" and know exactly to what it refers. To everyone, though, it brings them back to a different place. To some it may bring back the memory of a lost loved one taken away from them by the attack, or it may bring them back to being a little kid at the time and not knowing exactly what had happened or what it meant.

For me, it takes me back to being in the third grade and being called out by the principal, walking to the principal's office and seeing my older brother already there sitting next to two other boys who were brothers. I was confused as to why I was called into the office with this group and realized it was because both of our fathers worked in NYC, either on the same block as or in the World Trade Center. Thankfully, mine was the one who works on the same block. We were told our mothers were on their way to pick us up and that there was an attack in the area where our fathers were. Being in third grade, and the youngest of the students in the office, I had no idea what was going on. When my mom picked up my brother and I, she explained that she had not been able to reach our father yet. Not knowing what had happened to him for hours, finally he was able to contact my mother to tell her that he was okay. He was outside the doors of the World Trade Centers and physically watched the first plane crash into one of the towers. Hours later he was able to take a train into a town outside of NYC where we met him and brought him home safely.
This experience was extremely eye-opening to me. What triggered this experience into my connecting it to American identity was when we went to get my father, seeing all of the citizens, victims, firemen and others meeting here at this train station, the only way in and out to the site of the attack. The police officers and firemen who were going into the city risking their own lives to try to save someone else’s. I think that made it very clear that in this nation we are strong and when a national emergency like this happens, the citizens of this country really unite and come together to survive and make it through. We can even turn the site of this national attack into a monument, a place where people can come to grieve, realize, or even just understand what happened there and what it meant. People now make Ground Zero a must-see stop if they visit NYC, and I think it's great that we acknowledged it and can turn it into a place of memory, yes of something tragic, but still never forgotten.

Section 3: My Beliefs/Values/Principles & How We Should Define and Understand American Identities--Who Are We and Who Should We Be?
I am an American and believe in many of the values that were set forth by the founding fathers who developed and made this country into the great nation it is. The values that all men are created equal, all men have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not being discriminated or judged upon the color of your skin, the origin of your parents or grandparents, or your faith. Coming together as one people, one nation. And coming together as one being important as to how preserving individual freedom requires collective action. Our pledge to a declaration written when this country had just become a nation, and our preservation and interpretation of this declaration from the day it was written to today. The preservation of human dignity and justice. All of these things are the beliefs, the values, and the principles that were instilled in me and taught to me as an American, and are the same beliefs, values, and principles I hold dear to me as a human being as well.
Unfortunately, all of these things are not necessarily always the case. There are hate crimes in this world and discrimination from people that believe that because you are different from them, you are below them. There is injustice and hardships for many decent people who may not deserve all of the obstacles life has given them. But as Americans, what we should have is an equal opportunity to each and everyone one of us. That for each American, all of the beliefs, values, and principles we are governed by and taught and are our rights to have, should pertain to all of us.  Although this country has overcome many unjust things such as the days of African American slaves and the organizations of hate such as the Ku Klux Klan, there is still much adversity we face. In a perfect world, we would have all love and no hate, and equal opportunity for all, but unfortunately that would be a perfect world, and one that we do not by any means live in.

In class, we watched the video of Blanco reciting the inauguration poem “One Today,” and I believe that the text of this video is what our founding fathers of this country wanted and envisioned when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. We are recited a poem at every presidential inauguration as a reminder of what this nation stands for, as a reminder of what this country believes, and as a reminder of what this nation is capable of.  A nation where there is complete and true freedom of religion and speech. A nation where somebody whose home life and upbringing can be significantly different from another’s, yet they still have the exact same opportunities. Where someone who grew up poor and in a violent neighborhood can turn his/her life around and get an education and succeed. This nation is great and has potential to become even greater, and I am very proud to say I am a citizen of it.

This class has opened my eyes to so many American Identities that I have never taken the time to think about or analyze before. There are so many aspects to identity and so many big and little things that shape someone into exactly who they are. Reading and analyzing books about different aspects and engaging in debates and discussions showed me that they pertain to all. Even just our class is an example, we all came to class the first day not knowing everyone and were shy to speak up and make our point but as the months went by, we all got much more comfortable with each other and were able to respectfully debate and even joke around with each other. I think that bringing young adults together like that with completely different backgrounds and opinions and throwing them into a complete discussion-based class is incredible. We all learned so much about each other, and I have learned so much more about American Identities than I had ever known and my eyes were opened to a much better understanding and appreciation of it.

No comments: