Sunday, November 26, 2006

Local Customs--United States

The United States of America is such a diverse country made of so many different religions, ethnic backgrounds and cultures it is difficult to pinpoint a custom or ritual that is truly American. There are holidays of course that we celebrate ideas or events that uniquely American but there are other countries that celebrate also just for different reasons.

The 4th of July, or Independence Day is probably the only uniquely American holiday although some of my brothers and sisters here at ONEATALL also have talked about the Independence of their country as a holiday. I think Homer Simpson of the Fox TV show, The Simpsons said it best when he claimed that , "Nothing says I love my country than blowing up a small piece of it." Fireworks displays are a large and climactic end to that holiday celebrated here. The most spectacular array of fireworks usually takes place in our nations captital, Washington D.C. . The bicentennial celebration took place in 1976 and my mother and her boyfriend and his best friend made the trek to join the millions of people gathered on the Mall by the Washington Monument to participate in the festive occasion. I remember riding on the shoulders of my mother's boyfriend's best friends shoulders the whole evening and the long walk back to our car. I was 5 years old and it just seemed busy and crowded in an overwhelming way. We live about an hour north of D.C. and the car ride home was very long due to traffic. I had said I was hungry and wanted chocolate pudding (of all things) and the adults indulged me and took me to an all night diner when we returned to our town. I fell asleep waiting for it and they tried to wake me but I don't think I even took one bite. The 4th of July is somewhat like New Years Eve in that it seems like a good idea and full of promise but doesn't ever live up to the potential you make it in your own mind.

The only other custom or ritual I can think of is getting married. Currently in many states during our past election the idea of gay marriage was put forth to the people around our country. There are a few states here in the USA that you can legally marry and that is in Hawaii and Massachusetts. I use to live in Massachusetts and felt very proud that we were one of the first states to make gay marriage legal. This is a huge controversy in our country and the current administration's religious affiliations and the crowd of supporters he gathers has turned this simple issue into a firestorm of protest and ugliness. The largest campaigns against gay marriage states that it damages or undermines straight marriage. I don't understand that myself or the logic behind it. If that were the case then you could suppose that the crimes other comment in my town make me also a criminal and undermine my ability to live a crime free life. Largely this is an issue of money, as are most things in my country, guised as a religious affront. My country was founded because of religious freedoms but somehow that does not translate into freedom for all---just those that think the same way as the leading political parties.

The custom of marriage in our country takes many forms from a church service performed by an official of your religious choosing or in a civil ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace who has the legal right to proclaim and officiate marriage in your state. There are many laws about who you can marry and not just about the sex of the person. You may not marry a sibling, a first cousin (in many states) and that person must be of a consenting age --which varies from state to state but ranges from about 16 to 18 years old unless you have permission from your parents. It is traditional for the bride to wear white which use to symbolize purity and virginity but many women wear white regardless of their past sexual history. The bride carries a bouquet of flowers and will toss it over her shoulder after the ceremony and the woman who catches it, lore has it, will be the next to marry. There is usually some kind of party afterwards called a reception and there are dances, toasts and tributes that are performed for the married couple. Those specific traditions will vary by culture, ethnic and religious background. Most couples exchange rings of some kind to symbolize their love and devotion to each other.

The Untied States is a wonderful mixture of people, ideas, motivations and cultures and each group expresses their own uniquely. The blending of traditions and customs from so many varied backgrounds make my country very interesting and diverse. The people are is the government that mucks it up and makes it more complicated than it has to be.


Blogger Mo said...

Hi Cole

In Scotland (and the rest of the UK) we now have a form of gay wedding too. It's called a Civil Partnership and gives people the same rights as married couples. I attended such a ceremony this summer when one of my friends "tied the knot" with her partner. It was a lovely day though it did feel a bit unusual.

10:24 AM  
Blogger cole edwards said...

Love is universal. What two adults choose to do should not be governed by my country because they do it on "religious" grounds. In our constitution there is a seperation of church and state and it is unconstitutional to forbid two adults from marrying each other. It is an uphill battle and one that I hope is won soon.

Love, is beautiful and congratulations to your two friends. How wonderful that you were including on something so intimate and magical as two people committing to love, honor and cherish each other. Lovely.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:10 AM  
Blogger cole edwards said...

What was the comment deleted????

12:05 AM  
Blogger Jock said...

Somebody divulgating a lot of links, porns, etc.

12:14 AM  
Blogger cole edwards said...

AH...spam. I see.

12:47 PM  

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