“Getting urbanized. I like this term. It means you have to learn the ropes,” opens Terkel before delving into his own transplant struggle with moving to the city. Born in native Nebraska as a Native American child, it was a complete contrast of worlds and to cross over proved to be somewhat of a learning curve, “just like a person moving out from prairie country into the woods.” He describes the extent of his urbanization by his trouble going to sleep without the city’s noise lingering in the night’s air, because silence is simply not found within the Chicago city limits at any time of the day. It may not be pleasant but one could, “at least feel confident that perhaps fifty paychecks a year,” would cover any troubles we as Americans encounter.
Being an American is something Terkel tackles throughout this article, delving into the business side of the country’s systematic labor work and economy. Dating back to the 1887, the Allotment Act the government had passed drove a wedge between the Native American populous, severely opening a gap of Indian youth who felt that they had no identity. If one did not become a farmer overnight but also could not stay true to their ancestor’s lifestyle and tradition, what are they to become? What pride can an individual hold if they know not who they are?
Like Terkel writes, I am very fortunate to have grown up inside the city scape setting since a youth. Many Mexican children are brought onto American soil after there are conceived in their home countries; this situation itself is already a dilemma for their acceptance and compatibility in American society. It becomes necessary to know one’s roots to have a foundation to build character upon, and this makes me eternally grateful that I also had the opportunity to visit my parent’s home country of Mexico growing up, often twice a year whenever school holiday breaks allowed us to trek back to the motherland.
Terkel also mentions in the beginning of this article how it is an absolute necessity to have some sort of goal to aspire towards when living in the city and to not have one might drive someone “mad.” I find this reality impacting so many troubled youth, wandering through the city aimlessly and with no real ambition. Simply satisfied with having superficial meals in our stomachs and being fed the latest pop culture, many know not of their greater purpose not only in the city but on this Earth. When one is stripped of all historical knowledge and ethnic awareness then they consume everything plated in front of them; a Native American knew exactly what they were consuming because they hunted and preserved their game. The notion here is that one should never be satisfied with where they are and who they are told to be. There is a poem by Keorapetse Kgositsile that ties this idealism I’m trying to draw together with a few powerful words. It goes:
“Though you remain
To be alive
You must have somewhere
Your destination remains
Elusive.” (Isidro Pacheco/ CoS Student)