Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Native (Italian) American

As we get more science on exactly who we are and where we came from via DNA mapping, we often find out we aren’t who we think we are. In my case, I found out I am 51.6% Italian. I also found out I have a small percentage of East Asian and Native American.

Since my grandfathers and grandmothers came to America over 100 years ago, their descendants have multiplied. In a paternal lineage that will most likely stop. We will have had roughly 150 years of being in America by those sets of measurements.

What does it matter? There are 7 billion of us right now, a small portion of the roughly 107 billion who have been born on earth. Staggering numbers. Even more staggering is how each and every one of us thinks 1) we’re the center of the universe and 2) with a little luck we might not die.

My own personal take on this is that those of us who were born here are now native Americans. Not like the generations that came before us who suffered genocide and countless indignities. Nonetheless, this is where we have arrived to. And this is the soup we are simmering in.

I feel my Italian origins; doubtless they are part of where my people came from. I remember walking along a street in Pozzuoli, not one generation from a time when the area had witnessed destruction, first at the hands of the Germans and Italians and then from American bombardments. Here I was, 6’1”,  worn looking jeans, a bevy of cameras and a backpack. Little children ran by my side, trying to touch me. I looked just like them, but I was taller and there was something different about the way I walked, talked and held myself. I could have been from another planet, for all they knew, or from Olympus. It was such an odd experience, this feeling of being around people who I thought were like me. But there were (and still are) fundamental differences.

Going around America, I feel the heartbeat of the place. I listen to the howling of the dogs, the rustling of the aspen leaves, the burst of thunder and the following rain showers. This is part of who I am. I cannot bring back all the wonderful souls, both in America and in Italy, who have contributed to the better life of planet Earth. I can only put my ear to the ground and listen to their ancient whisperings, guiding me, running by my side and touching my soul with their spirit.

Yes, I am proud to have much of my DNA having come from Italy. But I am also proud of my native roots as well. I think it is very popular to assert ones pride in one’s country these days. This is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about rests in the water gently gliding down the mountaintops through rivers and brooks. The wind as it whispers through the pine trees. The sun as it shines on the red earth, flowers and vegetables ensuing forth and giving us pleasure and sustenance. This is what I am talking about.

So yes, technically I am a transplant. The wind blew me here. I took root. And now I am a native (Italian) American.

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