It’s been quite an interesting day one way and another, and it’s led me to thinking—no moans, please, nor wise cracks. Here’s the thing: I’ve noticed, since being in Canada, that Canadians refer to those of us from south of their border as ‘Americans.’ But aren’t they Americans, too? And during a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum today (a place singularly devoid of guards and docents, by the way), we visited an exhibit of traditional Mexican handcrafted clothing in which Mexicans referred to themselves as Americans. Canadians and Mexicans have each apparently decided on some form of identity that, to me, seems devolved from their view of themselves in relation to the USA. Maybe I could now describe myself as a ‘Statian?’
But wait! There’s more. We also viewed a photography exhibit in which an
American of Asian Indian origin juxtaposed photos of herself with photos taken by Edward Curtis of Native Americans. So, as she had it, there were American Indians vs. Indian Americans. But what is contained in these names? As one bright spark put it to me once, if Columbus had been looking for Italy, Native Americans would have been called Italian Americans.
Further on was an exhibit of the changing borders of Africa with maps through the ages starting with the 14th Century through 1665, on to a map of Stanley’s expeditions, a Missionary map from 1891 and so on. Not only have the names of the countries changed but the names the people call themselves have changed. For instance, the Hausa, Ebo, Yoruba, et.al., who now make up Nigeria, also spread into neighboring present-day countries. Is their identity as Nigerians or the individual tribes?
Now, to complicate matters even more, Cristal and I stumbled into a wonderful restaurant for lunch called ‘Signs’ Unbeknownst to us, the name came from the fact that the entire staff, bar the maitre d’, were deaf, and there were lessons on how to sign your order via a ‘cheat sheet.’ Not only did we have a great lunch but we learned something, too. But—here’s my point—are we thinking of those individuals as, ‘that deaf waitress Katie’?
Women used to complain about being identified as somebody’s mother, somebody’s wife, somebody’s whoever. This question of identity has numerous layers to it ,and I suppose we need to pigeon-hole people to distinguish each other, but as the Bard said, “ A Rose by any other name…”