Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The spawn of DP nation

The first wave of DPs fared out remarkably well, by and large. Even the bohunks who never got off the factory floor managed to do pretty good for themselves. They got to the promised land when unions were strong and defined benefit pensions were the norm. They're biding their time in Florida and Arizona today and enjoying their pensions, waiting for that final re-assignment to the sky.

But how did the next generation fare out? Many of them continued with the trajectory that their forbears had embarked on. Every shit-shoveller, coal-shoveller, log-cutter and line-hand who came from the old world to the new back in the '50s wanted something better for their offspring. A lot of that offspring made it.

Quite a lot didn't.

They were caught between worlds. They were not anymore Germans or Italians or Greeks or Hungarians or whatever. Yet at the same time they were not fully Americans or Canadians or fully made members of whatever culture they had fled to.

They were caught between cultures. And even though I was born in the old world and raised in the new, that's my demographic. That generation caught between cultures.

Superficial appearances to the contrary, we've never fully integrated or assimilated. But we can never go back. The reason so many of us exhibit high levels of achievement in this culture (and I don't count myself in that cohort) is because we try so desperately hard to fit in. But even among the most successful there is so often a very obvious attempt to turn back.

That very rarely ever works.

I suspect that's pretty much true of subsequent waves of immigrants too. From Asia and Africa and the Caribbean and beyond. Displaced persons all.

But we're here now, and for better or worse, we'll make the best of it.

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