Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way Back From The Forum

Years ago I accompanied my friend Joe on a grocery shopping expedition, as his wife needed a few items. It seemed like a good opportunity to pick up a few things for myself, so I headed to the produce area. On the way back Joe, a teasing descendant of Eire through and through, began to rib me about how I was examining the produce to see if the quality was right. "Typical Italian - squeeze the tomatoes!" I can't remember my riposte, maybe it was the old standby about why it's hard to remember being invited out to an Irish restaurant.

But of course he was right. Being raised Italian, it IS normal to check, and check aggressively. And so the seed was sown.

Ethnicity matters. The culture, traditions and experiences of a group will carry over into so many areas. These things will color how one sees reality.

Divine Providence has made many cultures, each with its own virtues and failings. In America today the establishment pushes a cult of aggressive abstract multiculturalism that is wrapped up in the cold intellectual structures of Anglo-Saxon legalism. Hidden under the slick ice, however, it often tolerates and even encourages ethnic stereotyping and rabble-rousing.

Perhaps Italian-American culture, with its earthiness, physicality and skepticism, was heaven-made to puncture the illusions of this balloon. I'll try to do my part, anyway!

And by the way, to properly check a tomato, grasp it firmly but DON'T squeeze, rotate it to check for firmness and to make sure it has no punctures or blemishes. If this is too much trouble, that's OK, but this is a signal that you could be Irish. Save me a beer!