Today, in the parking lot of a grocery store, I passed a woman in a beautiful black burqa covered in amazingly intricate and artistic stitchery. I could not see a single inch of skin; even her eyes were covered. Just a tall black burqa and the pointy tips of black leather shoes. And it was totally gorgeous, and part of me was jealous. Not that her oppressive religion requires women to cover every atom of skin in public, but that she has a culture and religion that are important enough to her that she'll go to such lengths to uphold them.
As your basic melting pot American, my ancestry spans all the boring European countries, and my religion is "maybe". My ancestral dress is jeans and a t-shirt, and our family traditions have more to do with eating boiled and fried things than with religion or culture. And it's depressing! There is nothing rich in my history, no distinct eye color or colorful headdress, no family heirlooms. We're just boring Americans. We don't even dress up when we *do* go to church, and when we go, we rarely feel anything. There is nothing exotic about us. Simply put, we have no culture.
Many would argue that the world is headed towards homogeneity, that one day everyone will be caramel-colored with brown eyes and slightly wavy hair, but I find that thought depressing. I love interesting noses and funny mustaches and a rainbow of hair shades and eye colors. I love to see Chinese babies in their silks for New Years and mocha-skinned babies with jingling silver anklets. I truly wish I had a fascinating and colorful culture to care about, that I had a "people".
But it's just never going to happen. As much as I spent my entire life trying to be special and unique, I'm still just a suburban white chick who married a suburban white dude, and as gorgeous and amazing as our daughter is, we have very little to pass down to her from her ancestors. Like all Americans, she has to make her way in the melting pot where everyone is special, just like everyone else. Sometimes we think we should go to church just so Cleo will have something against which to rebel.
We're so fortunate to have our freedoms, but at the same time, I kinda think of it like a fox gnawing its leg off to get out of a trap. You're free, but you left something behind that you'll never regain. I wouldn't want to wear a burqa, but I would like to pull a burqa out of a trunk one day and explain to my daughter what it meant, what it was like to wear it, and what it was like to take it off and feel the sunlight on my skin.