Nearly twenty years later I am still amazed by the ethnic identities dearly held in Southeastern Wisconsin. It was a completely new concept to me when moving from Oklahoma that even two or three generations removed from the immigration family identities remained strong through stories and gatherings.
Oh, I have roots, too, but as a European mutt I've never really been asked to stake a claim. Plus, part of the family has been here since before the American Revolution, and that part was English. By the time they were living in sod houses on the prairie it was pretty much forgotten.
But we all come from somewhere. We all live in the same America. How has it become that my America as a self-described fairly conservative housewife looks so different from the America of a left-leaning celebrity like Neil Diamond? Or does it. That was the question that began rolling around in my head Sunday night when I watched Mr. Diamond and his band perform America at the Marcus Amphitheater.
Diamond put up a picture of his grandmother as a young girl at the beginning of the song and told of his success being owed to her immigration. He spoke with obvious pride for America. I feel that pride, too. But given the chance he'd argue for one set of government leaders and I for the other.
I defend the hard work and trained skill that allows the creation of winners like Diamond and losers like - well - me, sitting in audience for a couple of hours on a free ticket. (Another story. Again you are spared.) But he puts money into politicians who consider free cell phones and free minutes a right. I bank on those who lean towards God and guns. At least that's the divide if you listen to the media.
No wonder we're a confused country. We can't figure out how we got here, much less where we are going. But one thought kept repeating through my mind as I listened to the song: We are only as enslaved as we choose to be. We have the power to break free from this political stalemate if we work at it.
As this political season heats up, come back to that thought. Push past the punditry. Remember the pundits, no matter the side they take, are winners spoon feeding us losers who won't turn off the television or radio. Who are afraid to think for ourselves. Who become the demographic behind the advertising revenue of the media outlet who makes money from keeping you angry.
Maybe the way to honor our ancestors the most is to step back from the advertisements and advisers and pundits and talking heads and talk to each other. Take the middlemen out of this one. In Wisconsin we have an amazing opportunity to actually see the candidates come through our state. Go watch the parade with your eyes wide open. See what's been orchestrated for the rows of cameras on the risers, but also figure out what you are not being told.
Challenge yourself to move past the rhetoric that shackles our country.