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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Culture Bound

Culture, identity, home, belonging, etc.

As those cultural anthropologists insist, each of us inhabits a range of cultures; more than a single culture encumbers each of us. We see, hear and feel; we remember, dream and hope through the senses our cultures have given to us and we've inadvertently received; and to some extent, our cultural identities constrain and limit us.

Wednesday evening, August 18, 2004, I watched The Reunion, on our local ABC affiliate, KGTV Channel 10. The subject struck me extremely: present-day interviews and retrospective reminiscences of the experience of some Shaker Heights, Ohio residents who'd been part of an intentional racial integration project beginning with their kindergarten class and continuing through high school in the Shaker Heights public schools. Those were the identical years I spent experiencing blockbusting, white flight and redlining in Boston; those same years some of the neighborhoods around me blazed with anger and rage at the same time Watts, Detroit, Atlanta and too, too many U.S. inner cities became furious conflagrations and locales of supercharged and globally publicized citizen/police interactions.

But that's almost a digression, since lately I've been thinking I need to go home, and although there's no way I can return (or would return) to Big Tree Place or any of those other physical dwellings, no way could I return to First Mariner's Church (especially since it disbanded a while ago), I can return to my *home* culture, the culture that's my Muttersprach, my cultura franca - to invent an idiom - and I need occasionally to do so! Besides, in the same way you never step into the same river more than once, because both of you and the river have changed, the home you return to cannot be the home you left, so even if I had a physical option to go back there, I still wouldn't be able to relive something that's no longer there, a location that even in terms of my heart's identity I've rationalized, streamlined and simplified.

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