Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Greetings From The Land Of The Cloverleaf (And Other Types Of Highway Transitions)
I think the less said about the upcoming Lord of the Rings musical the better.
It is often pointed out that America is a nation of immigrants, usually by politicians during election season pandering to majority Latino audience. It's an obvious and wholly unenlightening thing to say, but I guess it beats watching Candidate Gringo speak bad pidgin Spanish.
America: the World's Dumping Ground for the wretched, teeming with the very unwashed masses and their oversensitive germophobic offspring.
The real genius of America isn't music or industrial ingenuity or pornography or professional wrestling (impressive though all those cultural achievements are). No, our true gift as a people is in our cultural homogeneity. No country in the world takes its immigrant populations, wrings them for every last drop of sweat and blood in all manner of dehumanizing labor that "regular" Americans wouldn't dream of condescending to just so we can sell their children Jordache jeans and Members Only jackets.
My pop culture references might be a little dated.
The point is for all the short-sighted complaining by rednecks and other flavors of Republicans about the resistance of new immigrants to assimilation, I know and you know and everyone else knows that it's only a matter of time before the mass media advertising machine floods the space between immigrants and their American-born children with needs and wants for completely unnecessary necessities. No matter how insular the community, they all get cable TV, the kids all go to public schools where they learn that they have to have an iPod.
The mutual disgust established Americans and immigrants have for each other fades after a few generations. Then, the grandchildren or great-grandchildren--if the community is large enough--after all their material needs sated, swollen and satisfied from sucking on the teat of American consumer culture of which they are now irrevocably a part, suddenly decide (from this position of perfect social cover now as they're real Americans who are horrified at the idea of people anywhere speaking a second language) decide they must must must honor their heritage in the crassest, half-assed, totally false and completely American way possible by turning it into a one-day holiday.
Oh, Columbus Day!
Oh, Cinco de Mayo!
Oh, St. Patrick's Day!
The irony is that these are purely American holidays. And yet there persists the silly idea that celebrations should be "authentic", like the way all Mexicans on May 5th force themselves to drink Corona with José Cuervo chasers until they black out.
As far as I can tell, in order for something to be authentically ethnic in the US, it simply has to be successfully marketed as such.
If you're starting an Irish-style pub in the US, you can even get help from the good people at Guinness and their Irish Pub Concept. In exchange for just a little bit of your American dollars, they will sell you the secrets to design-concepting and marketing your establishment. What could be more American than that?
I've never been to Ireland, but I would guess the best pub experiences come from neighborhood watering holes with a regular clientele of locals who will make you feel welcome and laugh at you because you don't like to drink warm beer that tastes like a peat bog. All the dark wood paneling in the world isn't going to quite recreate that.
I think we should be less ashamed at the thing we're best at. Why does every "tradition" need to be old to be classy? If we've been doing it for more than two years in a row, it's a tradition.
So this year for St. Paddy's Day, I'm going to pinch people who are not wearing green (not saying where, but it will smart) and get loaded up on McDonald's shamrock shakes while watching Richard Gere do the worst Irish accent ever in The Jackal. No shame, Richard. You're an American pretending to be Irish, making a spectacular ass of yourself in the process. Nothing says St. Patrick's Day better than that.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.8