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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Celebrating Cultures

Reminded today that we ~ where "we" means every last one of us ~ have lost something precious because of the Shoah, something it will be difficult to recover. And that is, the language to speak out loud of culture.

In Germany, the loss is palpable. Old rhetoric about the Leitkultur has rendered conversation all but meaningless. In these United States, we too fear misspeaking, not merely out of PC angst, but because the term often denigrated people of color, dismissed anything not White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant as inferior.
We may not have had our Theresienstadt, much less Dachau or Auschwitz, but we Americans have done our fair share of relegating 'lesser' cultures to the fringes of society where "their" material poverty does not infringe on "our" way of life. And that has remained true even as non-WASP cultures moved into the mainstream.
Today reminded me that it does not have to be that way. That here and there, people break down walls. And where walls come tumbling, we can once again admire the beauty of other cultures without passing judgment.
It was "Native American Day" at Stough Nature Center in Burbank. Tongvan Nation Dancers cheered us with simple, spiritual moves and prayers and songs and music.
As Grand Finale, the chief asked the audience to join them in a dance meant to celebrate their culture, but which he understood as a means for every individual to celebrate and preserve his or her unique heritage. Small blond girl speaking French (or was it Norwegian) joined African-American joined pink-haired Californian joined Michael-Jackson-wannabe joined Tongvan joined Jewish joined Heinz-57-mixed-up-American.
Laughter rocked the hillsides as the "Hummingbirds" taught simple, intricate moves, weaving in and out of the circle, grasping hands, releasing, clapping, shouting, singing.
The moment bespoke recovery from the Shoah loss, whispered that we should not give up hope. One day, perhaps even soon, we shall continue to remember, but with rifts repaired.
V'imru Amein.

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