Wednesday, July 29, 2009
There have been a lot of interesting blog discussions this week about race and politics, and identity. Intersecting with this is a friend of mine whose dad died when she was 18 months old. She never knew much about him because his family basically dropped off the map after he died.
Every couple of years, one of his brothers (her uncle B-) pops up out of the blue, promising to send pictures and memorabilia and information about her dad. He never delivers.
He made a surprise visit to her neck of the woods this week and made the usual offer - and as usual, didn't bring anything he promised (except his pain-in-the-ass wife, who always promises to be a real bitch. SHE didn't fail to deliver.)
This got me thinking because I've always sort of wondered about my own family's identity. And hence, my own. My family is a mixture of Apache, European and Irish ancestry. We have been kicked out or we have fled from nearly everywhere! Protestants in Ireland, Jews in Switzerland. Somewhere along the lines my relatives converted to become Lutherans, probably to prevent their own deaths - or maybe because they loved horridly boring church services. (I once had a Catholic boss who said being Lutheran was "being Catholic in denial." Aside from the more progressive stance on women clergy and birth control, I am inclined to agree.)
I've been insulted by people because they thought I was white and insulted by people because they thought I was Native, and I happen to be both.
I've been called "too Jewish" by hardcore Christians and "not a real Jew" by Jewish friends. Or those I thought were my friends.
I have lived in seven different states and Mexico, so I pause when people ask where I am "from." I have moved more than 20 times in my life.
I come from a long line of interesting relatives. I had a great-grandfather who organized the Milwaukee railroad and arrested Baby-Face Nelson (who was hiding under a bale of hay in an Iowa barn.) There have been arsonists, suicides, alcoholics, and even a great-grandmother who literally ran away to join the circus.
Sometimes I wonder, who the fuck am I?
I've tried to figure out where I'm "from," who I am, where I'm going.
Then again, I think, perhaps it doesn't matter, except for the last part.
Who are you? How do you define yourself?
That's the million dollar question, isn't it?