–Oh, my! Yesterday’s post did not go through! My deepest apologies! Well, today you shall have two posts to make up the difference.
There are a myriad different ways to say it; heredity, father’s name, last name, surname, they all refer to The Family Name. The family as defined by the dictionary is a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children or all those persons considered descendants of a common progenitor. The importance of the Family Name cannot be stressed enough. In a word a person’s wealth, personality, and values are revealed. Believe otherwise? What comes to mind when you hear Rockefeller, Van der Bilt, or Trump? Not paupers in the least are among those names. Personality and values are “divulged.” Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, be careful! He is a Salvatore!” Or perhaps “I recommend one of the Clark men. They are honest folks.”
While in current American society, this manner of thought eroded away in favor of the glorified Independent Individual, the rest of the world still clings to the central value of Family and with it, The Family Name.
When people moved from one place to another, or traveled to distant places, they took with them formal letters of introduction from relatives, business colleagues, and the religious congregations from which they were departing. If the newcomers came from a distant family known to be of good character and had proper letters of introduction, they would quickly be welcomed into their new community. Without references, newcomers would be viewed with suspicion until it was known where they had come from, and more importantly which family they belonged to.
This protocol was not an act of snobbery but a common sense method of protection; a way to determine the nature of the stranger’s character and whether he or she could be trusted. Those without verifiable family references were likely to be excluded from the companionship of their neighbors until they could personally demonstrate their character—a time-consuming process. For all these reasons, one’s family reputation was one’s passport through life.
In Asian communities, it is referred to as the Family Honor. Being brought up bi-culturally, it was La Familia. It was always about La Familia on my mother’s side. The ideology was ingrained at a young age, “the way a child behaved was a direct reflection of the parents.” What madness! I was in a unique position, as my mother is the only daughter in her family, so my brother and I have my father’s last name. Whenever we acted different from La Familia, they claimed it was the Anglo blood in our veins. It can be infuriating to have such responsibility weigh down one’s life choices, how is this going to reflect with La Familia. A direct result of the Family Name psychology is shame and guilt. Shameful things are never spoken as not to tarnish the Family Name, so it becomes some “dark” secret; alcoholism, abortions, suicides, murder, mental illnesses, hearing disabilities . . . whatever the case may be. It was best to pretend it is a non-issue. On the other hand, the Family Name leads to much boasting, with the parent’s Pride as the highest accolade a person can receive. “Now you really are a Davis! I am so proud of you!” The assertions could also encourage competition and resentment. “Did you hear? The Simmons boy is going to Cornell!” “Sure, Abraham did not matriculate from the university, but he is making an exorbitant amount of money! Yet your boy, Bruce has a PhD and is practically a pauper. It is so unfortunate.” La! The shame of it all! It takes just a single individual to boost or destroy the Family Name. Tread carefully.