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Grappling with an identity crisis Carlos R. Davalos | Fri, Apr 09 2010 02:52 PM

It may come as a surprise to no one to learn the United States 2010 Census form is flawed.

The decennial questionnaire asks the typical questions: date of birth, name, ethnicity/race, but the form leaves no room for elaboration.

Advocates and government officials responsible for collecting the demographic information are quick to point out that the census gives us a snapshot of who Americans are. In essence, theyÕll tell you, they want to know who we are.

Oh, really? Really?

Maybe it was the second pint of Guinness having its way with me, but I sure as heck didnÕt see any place on the form where I could quote Emily Dickinson:

"I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us, don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know."
If the government wants to know who I am, why are they asking me? 

To my mom I'm a little boy who is always going to need his mother to bandage his wounds and give him a reassuring hug. To my brother I'm an old guy whose day in the sun has come and gone and whose bark is barely more than a whisper.

Ask my neighbors who I am and they might ask you if you mean that guy who walks down the street smoking a cigar, talking to flowers and avoiding  eye contact.
Some inhabitants at Chula Vista's City Hall would probably tell you that I'm the faceless end of a beaten down horse.

Ask me and I'd probably break into a song from "Les Miserables" (especially after a third pint of Guinness).

"Who am I? I'm Jean Valjean!"

This search for identity isn't an easy one, regardless what the head counters at the U.S. Department of Commerce will tell you.

My name? You want to know my name? Well, as William Shakespeare would say, "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as  sweet." 

Sure, you can call me Carlos but I'll just as easily answer to "Hey" "Sir" "Coach" "Son" and "Dude." All of those names will lead you back to this person and, oddly enough, others who answer to those names as well. As for race... Really, Uncle Sam, can there be any other answer than human (that was wittier after that fourth pint of Guinness)? Must I conform to whatever box you want to tuck me into? I'd really prefer to consider myself a member of a much broader spectrum of being than just some group of people who sort of look similar.  

Who am I? I don't know. You tell me. Who are you? Maybe we're one and the same.

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