Every culture is different. Sometimes these differences are arbitrary but usually they are the product of different circumstances. Since this is the 4th of July edition of the Grant County Gazette, I would like to use this occasion to comment on some things about public events in the US that might seem different and even remarkable to a visitor. One difference between America and most other nations is that here there is absolutely no connection between nationality and ethnicity. A person whose grandparents are Phillipino, British, Mexican and Polish is no more nor any less American than anyone else. This produces an American attitude towards ethnic identity that is different from the one in ethnically homogenous nations. The statement that "Minneapolis has the largest concentration of Norwegians outside Norway."may sound strange to non-American ears but it is typical of how Americans think of things. Technically of course, the 'Norwegians' in Minneapolis, are Americans with Norwegian ancestry. And the same applies to the Irish in Boston or the Chaldeans in Dearborn. The fact is that knowing that one's nationality is American tells nothing about their cultural heritage. They could be white Protestants of course, but they could just as easily be almost anything else. One result is a set of distinctively American holidays which emphasise our various heritages. St Patrick's Day is an American holiday for Irish-Americans. African-Americans get Martin Luther King Day, Italians get Columbus day and smaller groups hold local celebrations all across the country. Dayville had a Scots-American celebration. Vale Oregon has an Obon festival. Sweet Home has an Oktoberfest and so on. This means that when it is time to celebrate a truly national identity, there are no elements of religion or food or dress that are nationally unifying. For some of us home cooking means lutefisk and for some it means calzone. In some towns the big holiday is St Patricks and in others it's Cinco de Mayo. We have the flag, the constitution, the 4th of July and that's about it. I think this is the reason that so many public events here start off with singing the national anthem. It's about all we have and this may lead to over use. It is common to hear some patriotic rhetoric injected into sporting events where it does not really seem germane. In most cases these are not intended to incite any kind of action. These are the formal gestures that a public event requires. Of course the sentiments are sincere but when the crowd stands for the singing of the national anthem at a ball game it does not mean that they are getting ready to march or demonstrate or do much of anything except sit down and watch the game. So if you ever find yourself in deepest America and suddenly everyone jumps up and starts singing The Star Spangled Banner, relax. You don't need to participate or do anything really. It's one of our quaint native customs so sit back and enjoy the show.
Grant County Gazette Masthead
Quaint Customs of the USA
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