I think Wendt’s novel, even more so than Grace’s Potiki, is extremely applicable to our own unique American experience. Colonization’s affect on New Zealand has altered the country immensely, and with multiple neighboring island countries like Samoa who possess a more firm grasp of their indigenous culture, it makes for interesting cultural theatre. The novel’s main focus is centered on the two lovers. One is a Samoan boy living in New Zealand, and the other a European or papalagi New Zealand girl. Both of these characters consider themselves to be, in one way or another, aliens. Sometimes alienated by the very love that binds them; their story begs us to ask ourselves what are the ultimate barriers in cultural assimilation?
More than anything, New Zealand and the United States (as well as other colonized countries) are products of transculturation. It seems at times that what Sons for the Return Home is suggesting is that although benefits can be drawn from transculturation’s unwritten, unspoken compromise between two cultures, ultimately it acts a destroyer of homelands, leaving all involved, the indigenous and the colonizers, with not much of a homeland to call their own.
This sentiment is very applicable to American culture today. As a citizen of this country, I would consider myself patriotic. I have been known, on occasion, to engage in various patriotic activities such as overeating on Thanksgiving, overeating on the 4th of July as well as engaging in chants of “U-S-A” whenever the opportunity is presented. However, as an eight year student of Jesuit higher education I am not unaware of my country’s questionable moral history. From as far back as the founding fathers and up to well probably yesterday, our country has engaged in actions I am not necessarily proud of or in support of. One of these actions is the very act that is ultimately responsible for my own life. So what am I to make of that?
Therefore, one could argue, that America is in fact my true and natural homeland. If homeland is a place of origin, unique specifically to you, which without you would otherwise be floating around in limbo awaiting the spark of life then I am inclined to say that America is in fact my homeland. However, when I think of what life as like 500 years ago in the very spot I am sitting right now I find it hard to identify myself with this place as home. This then leads me to the question of where exactly my home is?
This fundamental question is at the heart of a lot of the literature we have read. Some characters we have encountered have an extremely defined sense of home. Others, like the characters in Sons, seem to have none. I think it is safe to say that colonization, at least temporarily, suspends a true sense of homeland for all involved. Transculturation plays a big role in this by essentially corrupting both cultures natural cycles.
That leaves two ways to answer these questions. The first would be to accept our world as an ever-changing, ever-corrupt and morally fallible place, where colonization and assimilation are key to survival. The second would be to not accept it, and subsequently live your life disconnected, without a true place to call home.