Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I Ran Into My Culture On TV
First of all, I want to make it clear that I love the different cultures of the world. I love the different cultures of the United States. I love our diversity. Our differences enrich us all.
But sometimes, when you least expect it, your culture appears out of nowhere. It calls to you. It's as if you are among people who speak a different language and all of a sudden, familiar words make their way through the many conversations in the air, to your ears. At once, you recognize the words and you are at home.
Last week, I saw many memorials and tributes to Tim Russert. I knew he was an excellent journalist, commentator, and interviewer. His peers remembered him fondly and with reverence. These tributes were heartfelt and allowed me to see sides of Tim Russert that I didn't know. His friends and colleagues wore the pain of his loss on their faces.
Friday evening, I turned the channel to MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews -- one of the political programs I watch regularly. Chris Matthews and his two guests, Mike Barnicle and Pat Buchanan reminisced about Tim Russert. Their tributes and memories were no less heartfelt than those of their fellow journalists. However, their manner of expressing their grief was different. They smiled and laughed. They even argued a bit. All good natured and every bit of it imbued with humor. I learned more about Tim Russert through their conversation and memories. They talked about Russert's roots, his upbringing in a Irish Catholic working class family and how that upbringing and those values shaped him. I understood more about Tim Russert. Matthews ended the segment, laughing as were Barnicle and Buchanan, stating words to the effect, "Well, there it is - three Irish Catholic guys paying tribute to another Irish Catholic guy."
That he meant Irish American Catholic is understood. I'm not a guy and my politics are not always in agreement with Matthews and Barnicle, and seldom in agreement with Buchanan. But I felt at home watching this tribute to Tim Russert. It was warm, loving, reverent and filled with humor and laughter. I understood it because it was the culture I was brought up in. I felt that comfort of recognition, of connection with my culture, history and a sense of belonging. I have been there. Laughter laced with tears expressed how deeply I felt the loss of my Aunt Eileen, my best friend. I vividly remember shaking with laughter as tears of grief streamed down my face when my cousin recounted a funny experience my aunt and I shared at the service. I knew my aunt was laughing, too.
Who would think that a political program with "three Irish Catholic guys paying tribute to another Irish Catholic guy" would immerse me in my culture? It did and I smiled.
Image Courtesy of Tangled Spider