I'm a bit confused. In fact, I'm a lot confused. I remember being told stories by my uncles (and aunt) about World War II. What it was like in the Philippines and in Europe and in the service during that time. Dad was too old for WWII and too young for WWI. Was he mad about that. But that's another story.
Today's (3/31/07) newspaper has an article in it stating that the "Latino" vets from WWII are bothered that their efforts and sacrifices were not prominent in the movie "The War". It's going to be shown on PBS sometime in September. The local American G.I. Forum (a Hispanic vets' organization) chief says it's "disgraceful". OK, I can understand why he may feel slighted, but I have no sympathy with organizations like La Raza and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They were not there. Most of them could not name five important battles, neither in Europe nor the Far East. They were not there, but there grandparents probably were.
Our local PBS affiliate plans to run the documentary and "sandwich" local programs highlighting the actions of Hispanics during the showing (thus effectively interfering with what the film makers are trying to give us) and sucking up to be "politically correct". It's sad to see the vets lowering themselves to this level. Maybe because I learned a fair amount of the history of that war in school and from my relatives.
(Sidebar: I have questioned about half a dozen fairly recent graduates of various high schools here concerning what they learned of WWII in school. Blank looks were the standard response. They mumbled about wars fought long before, but were ignorant of either World Wars. Most of those I questioned were Hispanics.)
I also had the good fortune to spend time in the Philippines when I was in the service. I learned from the Filipino men and women what they and the American troops went through. I heard, many times, that the Filipinos wouldn't object if they became an American possession. But that's another story.
When I was growing up, it was simple. You were either American or you weren't. It was a clear cut dichotomy. If you were a good guy the Americans helped you study for your citizenship. And many immigrants went to the movies constantly. And listened to the radio. And watched American television. They learned English from these activities. And they got high school credits as well as citizenship from their efforts. They became Americans. Not hyphenated Americans, but real, honest to God, Americans. And they took pride in that, as well they should have. It wasn't handed to them on a platter, they had to work to earn it. And they did, and they did, and they did.
I was a little kid, so maybe my recollections are blurred by the years. And very likely not.
I remember a lot of my playmates, though. My family came from German and Dutch stock (Kraut). I played with, and got along fine with kids who were Jewish (Jew). A girl and some boys who were black (Negroes). Boys who were dark skinned (Italian). A red haired girl I loved madly (Irish). Two girls and a boy who had shiny black hair (Mexicans). There were many others, but I do not remember which tribes they came from. If other kids didn't want to get along with us we had a simple solution that worked. We just didn't play with them. The point is this:
WE WERE AMERICANS.
We could not have cared less about where our parents or grandparents came from. There was no such thing as being a hyphenated American. Childhood does have a lot to do with our life and beliefs. Today, I have no time to listen to gripes about "mistreatment" in the past. I'm not interested in the wars our ancients fought with Indians. (They are getting their revenge, however. I leave a deposit of my money when I go to an Indian Casino.) My great, greats didn't own slaves (they came from Wisconsin, never a slave owning state as far as I know.) The Jewish kids and the Italians had parents who loved to feed me goodies. (I spent a fair amount of time in their kitchens.) We didn't talk about religion, either. The Mexican kids taught me about tacos and burritos. (Yum.) Mexico was an exotic place to me. And anything the little red haired girl did or said was hunky-dorey with me.
Growing up as I did, I carry absolutely no guilt about anything that happened in a past I had no input into. I contributed, in writings and cash, to helping correct social injustices, later in my life.
Sometimes I wonder about today's kids. Are they being taught the things that create racial hatred? Where are they learning about it, then? Are they being taught about antique and ancient hatreds in school or at home?
But I guess I'm kind of hard line when it comes to being an American. Please note, I am NOT a German-American.
I, world, am an AMERICAN.