Generation Gap – Once Removed?

Only one set of cousins on my father’s side are full-breed Iraqis, and first generation Americans. There are three boys and a girl and they grew up in Roslyn Long Island, which you would never guess from meeting them. Roslyn is a very showy and flashy suburb where all the girls straighten their hair and dress in Abercrombie and Fitch (or equivalent) uniforms. Needless to say I don’t want to imagine what it was like growing up in their shoes.

That being said, for the past 8 or so years my oldest cousin and my father have engaged in political debates over American politics. My father is proud conservative (one of maybe five Jews in New York with that political affiliation) and my cousin is very liberal. This Passover the debate was over the popular health care/taxes discussion. For my father, social programs in the government represent constraints. He does not trust the government and because of various experiences he has had, I do not blame him.

My cousin is very, very liberal. He supports health care and government stimuli. I won’t get into detail about this (cough, my cousin worked for WaMu, cough cough) but my father remarked in the car ride back (which included my grandmother and another uncle who lives in England) how astonishing it was that my cousin saw himself foremost as an American. My cousin is very different from other American kids his age (30). He has not moved out of his parent’s house, he dresses like he learned about American culture from watching Michael Jackson music videos and the Jersey Shore. He is almost defensive about his cultural heritage.

There is an interesting contrast between my sister and my cousin. My sister is so proud of her heritage. She finds my cousin creepy because she says that every time she looks at him she thinks about how, if they lived in Iraq back in the day, they would have been married. I think she is just jealous. And I think my cousin suffers from the same thing that many first generation kids do: they are defensive of their Americanism. Many that I know say they are or were embarrassed growing up. One of my friends whose parents moved here from Israel right before he was born says that he learned everything he knows about American culture from the television. He is proud of being Israeli but he is one of the most patriotic Americans I know. First generation Americans are the most patriotic people I have ever met other than a group of kids from Texas, who attended Baylor University, and with whom I spent a summer in Italy during high school… but they may have been a little too publicly patriotic… I don’t think that first generation American kids have the same problem.

One comment

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