Culture binds and blinds – we say it often in the Mixed Mental Arts community. Growing up for the first part of my young adult life outside of Pittsburgh was idyllic. My mom stayed at home and my father owned car dealerships. The public school system in Moon, PA was awesome, but there were some older teachers left over from the 60-70’s when I got to elementary school. The first lesson in a child’s life isn’t always that adult authority figures are full of shit – but it was one of mine. That particular teacher taught me that bullying kids crosses all boundaries of class and race. And it also made me sensitive to the differences of diversity. That “hinky” feeling that MMA talks about started in elementary school, levelled out in middle school and came back in utter revolt toward authority in high school – all while achieving lovely grades, awesome sports, and early admittance to a private university in DC. I learned that in my culture if you were achieving, you could also be a terribly mouthy brat, and you got a pass. We travelled as a family, and I was lucky enough to have visited places across Europe and Mexico. This further the notion that the all was not right in the middle class world of my home. The group mentality, the do as we are all doing, and the “ugly american” act when overseas was not for me, and allowed me to have many experiences off the beaten path, even with school tours (just duck and go, show up later and say “we got lost :(“ and no one asks where you were all day)
White middle class north eastern culture is where I grew up, but it is not where I was ever most comfortable. After graduating college I moved out west and was not interested in integrating into the culture of LA. I moved back to the east coast, and began working (to my father’s chagrin) in the automotive industry in a sleepy bedroom town WAY outside of DC. This almost southern Virginia town taught me about slowing down, saying hello, caring about community, about neighbors and any people you see during your day. Maybe I was more ready to accept this type of culture because of the others I had experienced.
I have since moved closer to DC but in another older town in Virginia, where in the cemeteries there are both confederate and union soldiers buried, and each grave waves that particular flag on certain days each year. I brought the culture of education and learning from Moon, PA, the value of experiential travel from my parents, and the slow your roll and talk politely to people from middle VA.
Omniculture is what I like to think of it. In work out circles being Omni means you gain weight everywhere, with culture I like to think of it as gaining ideas and values from everywhere and becoming a fuller human.
My son is 9 and got his passport when he was 6. Because of friends, luck and hard work he is already travelling and experiencing other cultures. What is interesting to watch in my own son, is that he doesn’t see anything as a real “cultural difference”, he just sees it as a new way to do something, or see something, or play a game in a different way. Playing with kids from other countries in Luca, Italy, in a town square, running like hellions until late at night is an experience he may forget, but I won’t let him.
My favorite part about meeting anyone new, no matter who they are, is knowing that they have value; I just need to ask the right questions to get the wisdom, and carry it with me in the future.