The last two week's readings, "Writing in the language of the Other" by Assia Djebar and "Lyric in a Time of Violence" by Meena Alexander, I found especially touching. Both of these pieces provoke one to think about identity, how one's language shapes their identity as well as how language and identity fit into a cultural identity. These readings spoke to me on both a political and a personal level, but mainly they have caused me to question a lot of things.
When reading "Lyric in a Time of Violence", Alexander's story challenged me to explore America (or Canada) as a "melting-pot". I have read, in my Clinical Psychology class, that it is estimated that by around 2050, America's inhabitants will be approximately 50% non-Caucasian. Therefore, yes, America is a melting-pot. However, when thinking about the fear provoked witch-hunt that befell all those who had dark skin, or appeared to be Arab, after 9/11 and the focus on English-speaking which often represents being American, power and belonging, I have begun to wonder if the "melting-pot" idea only works if one melts, or assimilates, in one direction, white-American. Does this melting pot really represent a mesh of many cultures, languages, and identities? Or is it rather a melting-pot which sucks up and then covers up all of the colors and flavors it encounters? Alexander's recount of 9/11 makes me wonder if being American (or part of a country), even if you know the language and merge your self-identity as such, is only as possible as melting away one's color in a sauce. If one sticks out like black pepper speckled into an alfredo sauce, will they always be subjected to speculation and seen as the "other"?
When Djebar speaks about her connection and her identity in relation to the French language, it caused me to evaluate my own relation to French. Djebar speaks of identity as "...not only made up of paper or blood but also of language" (114). On paper I am a Canadian who lives in America. I have often felt a strange proud connection to French, even though I no longer speak it (in the second grade I moved from a French-only education to an English school), such as when I present my birth certificate or passport which read in French with English as the secondary translation. However, I have also wondered, if, by blood, I should feel a connection to German. I discovered, when I was 15 years old, that my grandfather is German and speaks it fluently. I have never heard him speak in German; he did not choose to teach it to his children, because in the melting-pot of Canada, he did not want his children to be pepper-flakes easily picked out by an accent. I have often wondered if I feel a connection to French because I am (or was), as Djebar describes, "...an occupant..."of Canada that feels "...hereditary rights" (115) to a French identity and I wonder if I should feel a hereditary bond to German because I am (well at least part) German (granted because I am kind-of a mutt, so to speak, I would have a lot of languages to learn and relate to).
Thinking of owning these languages makes me wonder, if I were to identify as French or German, would I find more of myself? Would German make me closer to the blood-line which runs within me, would French reconnect me with a Canadian-ness I feel I am missing? Or would these identities make me feel like more or an "other"? ( I do not mean to downplay the magic and identity which arises in and of itself within understanding another language. My miniscule knowledge of Japanese has not changed my English-identity, but it has enhanced it, it has given me a different mode in which to think feel and express myself. ) Would identifying as French or German make me more of an outsider in an English-speaking American country, and in Canada, would French, when although it is one of Canada's two national languages, it is the less-spoken of the two, cause me to identify my as an "other"? Because English is the main component of my countries' melting-pots.
These readings have caused me to question many things. Is America wrong to be frightened to losing itself in a melting-pot? Is Quebec wrong for making a stand, especially when Canada is losing touch with its French identity? Personally, do I hide behind a personality I define with the word "Canadian" when I have done nothing to earn it or own it outside of being born in a specific location?