(my?) Heritage

As I sat on the Boston subway (affectionately named the “T”), the age was what was most apparent about this place. It is old. Dusty streets, cracked and cobbled sidewalks, dank subway tunnels… There is something old about this place. It’s full of memory and legacy.

When I think of America, all I get is this strange Californian version of it all. Everything seems newer, and all the old things are memories of a frontier culture where manifest destiny pushed America further and futher. Although quite a cultural and economic center today, it’s history seems placed strangely on the fringe.

This is the first time for me experiencing an America that seems to have a history that doesn’t involve a Spanish mission.

The question that has been rumbling in my head to the rhythm of the subway tracks is this… what part of this heritage is mine? The Boston tea party, the American revolution, Paul Revere… is it really mine? Is this history mine? As an Asian-American, can I take a grasp of this?

Perhaps it’s a trip of rediscovery of a side I take for granted as an Asian-American these days… my American side. Does this history of revolution and independence apply to me? For a member of an immigrant population that has arrived relatively late in this nation’s history, what do these things mean for us?

People keep coming up with different ways to define what it means to be Asian-American… indirect, face, community, language… I think those things are great. But what if being Asian-American was something on a much larger scale? Perhaps being Asian-American is the experience of dialogue that comes from the confluence of multiple narratives. We are the collision of histories, traditions, legacies and heritages. The Asian-American culture is the simultaneous incompatibility and blending of different contexts. It is the navigation of these contradictions.

Perhaps this is where Asian-Americans are at an advantage to bless the world. In one aspect, our disorientation between narratives makes it easier for us to grasp the disorienting nature of the gospel narrative. On the other hand, our reorientation between narratives gives us the ability to translate the disorienting narrative of the Gospel in ways that silence the dissonance of the Gospel to our cultures.

shrug. Been chewing on this for a while, still chewing on this.

more thoughts later.


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