As Americanized as we get, I think maintaining some level of cultural connection is enormously important to a person’s self-identity. Having genuine ethnic customs makes a person less susceptible to the trendy nonsense of the modern consumeristic age. And knowing the historical values and cultural traditions of your ancestors influences that types of philosophies you practice as an adult.
I’ve just read a New York Times bestseller book by Thanhhà Lại, called: Listen, Slowly. It’s a multicultural young-adult book about a Vietnamese-American tweenaged girl begrudgingly spending a summer in Vietnam. The book chronicles the inner thoughts of a 12 year old girl, as she experiences a rural village in a foreign country.
It incorporates several culturally conflicting thoughts that I have personally experienced being an American child born of immigrants. I’ve always been grateful for my multiethnic heritage because of the unique standpoints it gives me, and because the Americanized kids I grew up neighboring couldn’t decide what was truly important in life. They were trendy, and wasteful, and they took a lot of things for granted.
Whereas the book observes that people in Vietnam behave differently, people are always together, everyone talks to everyone else, there are no secrets, there’s no privacy, No one complains, and there’s an inclination never to waste anything. Something I enjoyed in the book was how gracefully people accepted the concept of ‘suffering’. “[Grandma] Bà says everyone suffers from something at some point”.
The comforts of the first-world have made us picky and inefficient. Spoiled incompetent children grow up and become spoiled incompetent parents. I’ve always expected immigrant families to have stricter parenting techniques because of fewer contingency options available to them. The pressure to succeed is highest when the whole family is working together. “Co Den tay, Phai, Phat” Flag in hand, must wave it”. This enthusiasm to ‘do whatever you can’ is lost on Americanized youths, because their families merely expect them to ‘be children’, instead of ‘adults in training’.