Friday, November 7, 2014

The Melting Pot Has One More Lump

The melting pot has one more lump.  This is so hard for me to admit because I am the granddaughter of immigrants whose children were taught to discard “the old world” and the ways of “the old world.”  My parents were encouraged to be part of a melting pot and refer to themselves only as Americans.  One day the lumps started to appear in the melting pot.  Suddenly it became politically correct to be African-American, Native-American, Latino-American, Irish-American, Polish-American, etc.  It never became politically correct to be labeled a Disabled-American.  You had to be referred to as a person with a disability or a person with blindness.  The message that was sent by this discrepancy is that being an African-American is something to be proud of, but being a person with a disability is something to hide.

I am so glad that one writer, Phyllis Campbell, did not mind defining herself as blind.  She is a prolific romance writer who contributed her skills and two of her works, Friendships in the Dark,A Blind Woman’s Story of the People and Pets who Light Up Her world.(her autobiography) and Come Home My Heart(a novel about a female doctor who loses her vision while she is engaged to marry) to her blind readers.  While identifying herself as a blind woman, Campbell is a delightful and skilled author who breaks down stereotypes and portrays the world of the blind as something that is neither depressing nor boring.  Her world is a very ordinary one where she and her characters live very ordinary and happy lives.

Campbell set me free to identify myself too, not as a blind woman but as a poet.  And, thanks to Dana Goya who writes about why poetry matters, I now identify myself as an Italian-American poet.  That explains why I seem to have one foot in the convent, one foot in my mouth, two hands free to type, and stubborn flexibility.

My Sicilian grandmother, Maria Baio, lost her country, her home, her family, and her freedom when her marriage was arranged and a ticket was purchased for her on a ship heading for America.  She created a life for herself that modeled the life she was forced to leave.  She was a strong woman who missed out on speaking to her grandchildren in their language because she loved what she lost too much.   Although her efforts were often fueled by anger, she retained her ability to laugh as well as cry, to sing as well as dance, and to smile as she sat under the grape vines that reminded her of the home she was forced to leave.  When I need strength, I often carry her picture with me.  Imagine my surprise when I learned after all these years that the sonnet is a Sicilian form of poetry.  No wonder I cannot stop rhyming.  It is in my DNA.

I do not define myself as blind because there are people in my world who are even more stubborn than my grandmother—and inflexible too.  These are the medical researchers who have recently perfected  procedures to remove cataracts that were once considered inoperable because of previous operations for other eye conditions.  I have no doubt that sometime in the next decade these amazing men and women will make me an offer I cannot refuse.

What defines you?  Is it your job, your family, your school, your religion, your medical condition, what you have lost or what you have left?  Better yet, who defines you?  Is it you, your parents, your children, your teachers, an agency, an organization, or an affiliation?  If you are not sure, perhaps you need to read another one of my poems/song lyrics that is definitely Italian-American in its philosophy:

Dream Another Dream

By Susan bourrie

Dream and make your dream come true.
That is what you've got to do.
or dream, dream another dream.
Impossible as it may seem.
Dream, dream another dream.

Just dream.
No matter how things seem.
No matter how extreme.
Just team, team up with a dream.

Dream a dream to big for cowards.
Dream a dream that tests your faith.
Dream a dream that will possess you.
You know no good will come unless you…

Dream and make your dream come true.
Dream and make it come to you.
or dream.  Dream another dream.
Impossible as it may seem.
Just dream.

Don't wait
 for fate to set the date.
That date could be too late.
Now is the time, create.
Create a dream.
Dream another dream.
Just dream.  Dream another dream.

loving what we have left sometimes requires that we respectfully redefine ourselves or dream another dream.  Sometimes, like in my case, it only requires rediscovering who you really are.  If that means adding another lump to the melting pot, you will be in good company.

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