Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm half Swiss

I'm going through the Love's Labors Lost blog from the beginning. In one post the author wonders why some people call themselves half-X. I've sometimes said I'm half Swiss, so I'll try to answer the question for myself.

First of all, what I mean by that is that I'm imagining that all of my father's ancestors three or four generations ago came from Switzerland. I haven't actually done the investigation I would need to do to prove that. I just know that he was born in Berne, Indiana, which was virtually a Swiss colony at the time. I might only be 40% Swiss. That's close enough to half, isn't it?

I'm trying to remember when and why I've sometimes said I'm half Swiss. The only example I can think of is when there's been some discussion of my mechanical aptitude. Then I've sometimes said, half jokingly, that I'm half Swiss. I say half jokingly because I do think there's something to that.

Maybe it also feels good to me to say I'm half Swiss, because I have romantic feelings about Switzerland. Maybe that comes from reading Heidi.

A few years ago I started exploring and emphasizing my Swiss heritage, to practice and promote European Americans taking an interest in our European heritages. I'm imagining that might help improve our relationships with other people.

"Another thorny issue about half-identity is this: why call attention to one half instead of the other?"

The Swiss part is all I know about. I spent of lot of time in Berne with my Swiss relatives, surrounded by signs of Swiss culture. I don't know anything about my mother's European ancestry, except that I've heard that it's partly German.

When people say they're half Jewish or half Chinese, maybe that's the only cultural background that they know about, or that interests them, or that they think might interest others, apart from the dominant culture that surrounds them.

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