Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Little Break - What Is A WASP Again?

I've now been asked this question, "But what is a WASP?" several times. In comments. In emails. And since I have the dadgum word in the title of the blog it does seem like it's my responsibility to offer a definition. But first, let me just say, that sheer fact that I am asked this question is a sign of the how much the world has changed since I was born. In 1956. Yeah, so last century.

WASP stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. We could leave it at that. But like many terms, WASP has several layers of meaning. White. Well, we all by now should have a sense of the multiple meanings there. Largely these days, and for the good, around what it means to be not-White. Anglo-Saxon. If you can believe it, it used to matter whether you were from Italy, France, Spain, vs. England, Scotland, Ireland, or Germany. How silly. Germany/Belgium/Netherlands are the Saxons. Protestant. In the days when WASPs ruled the Western world, they were really only trying to tell the Catholics to go away. They failed.

But that's the simple meaning set. The complex meaning is, um, gee, complex. It was the WASPs who originally took sail across the ocean, left England and Scotland, maybe Ireland, behind, and founded America. It was those same WASPs who then set mysterious standards, complete with arcane artifacts, to keep what they had won to themselves. I hope the values can be separated from the artifacts. And that's what I'm trying to do here. Along of course with amusing myself and anyone else who shares my somewhat cracked sense of humor. To speak for the values that drove us to leave behind our sheep farming and cheese making, and to brave very deep oceans. The values that created a society in which we really did believe that your effort trumps your origin. And to repudiate, if it still matters, the devolution of that society into a place of too many noses in the air for no good reason.

And I suppose to discuss the various pieces of cloth we all like to wrap ourselves in. Because at the end of the day fun is still a good goal. IMO.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Meg said...

First of all, I think we can say with some fairness that I am younger than you. Significantly. Though, you are noticeably younger than my parents. Anyway, I too am *shocked* that your getting asked this question.

Secondly, if you haven't read Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates, well, you have your marching orders. Go get a copy today, right after you finish your coffee.

March 19, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Largely, as I have come to understand it, we believed in this philosophy of a disregard for origin because we generally fell into two separate groups, neither from particularly good stock or lineage at the founding of our nation.
1. Christian, English peasants who wanted a wholesome, pure land where work ethic ruled - MA colony
2. Mercenary merchants/peasants/indentured servants a.k.a. white slaves who wanted to work to make a profit in a new land - VA colony
Or we could also recall the English prisoners and debtors forming other colonies. Not particularly born of noble blood, no?
And no, while none were of high birth, with high principles, we formed our notion of culture.
What saddens me today is that WASP's have become socially cannibalistic towards one another. Or, I have noted how quickly many a WASP will jump to say, "Well, yes I am one, but I don't feel like I am," or how quickly they abandon their heritage to assume that of others. We have removed ourselves from the cultural core of our heritage, which was largely our work ethic and religion, and thus many of our young people, of my generation, are ashamed to admit their lineage. All the while we have non-WASP's who think things work as they did many years ago and try to assume our culture. Perhaps this is borne out of insecurity in a world where we no longer have order.

February 20, 2010 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Bumpkin on a Swing said...

Loved this post, and thank goodness, I'm all clear on that. I was thinking snotty and now I know different

February 27, 2010 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Artful Lawyer said...

I love Anon's comment. I am from a mixed marriage - WASP on one side that came over before the Revolutionary War, and 1880s French/German Catholic emigrant on the other. Lots of social and origins tension.

Mom raised me with her beliefs - WASPs are special and better and we have a place in the world. Um, I'm a 40 year old business and tax lawyer - I don't see that we do have much of a place. The rush to be hip and relevant on one hand and the strong loyalty and community support of newer emigrants on the other (Jews, Chaldeans, anyone who had to scrap for success and position and reaped the benefits of hard work) seems to me to have left the WASPS on the sidelines. Maybe this happens after you "make it" and decades/centuries pass....

May 13, 2010 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger Mae said...

Awww... your post reminded me of when my dad first introduced me to Erich Segal's books. It's been a while, but I love them to this day.

June 17, 2010 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Bumby Scott said...

Hello LPC, I enjoyed this post so much that I have shared it over on my FaceBook page.

Always Bumby

July 20, 2010 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger teardropsouffle said...

Hi- Gosh your blog is very interesting so far. My question is- I'm a WASP myself but I've never heard of "high WASP". What's that?

July 20, 2010 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Bumby - Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

teardropsouffle - It's a term I found and started using to get more precise about my culture vs. the way that WASP gets bandied about. Here's my definition. http://www.polyvore.com/what_is_high_wasp/set?id=13077411. :).

July 20, 2010 at 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you also tell us something about the ROTHSCHILD Clan today? Who, where, etc...

October 11, 2010 at 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its interesting how every ethnic group has a strata of subgroups that think they are superior.High Wasp superior to other Wasp,Askenazi Jew superior to Sephardic,Spanish superior to Latin American etc,etc.I am grateful that my Ashkenazi/Spanish/French/Italian background has let me see the ethnic purebred as superior for the total nonsense that it is.

October 16, 2010 at 5:05 AM  

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