Forty years later, the man is still resentful — not so muchnfor the obstacles put in the way of his success, since he has innfact succeeded. What he resents most is the shame he wasnmade to feel for being Italian. In their desire to make him angood American, his parents told him very little about the oldncountry, and it was only when he made a sentimentalnjourney back to Italy that he realized that he came from thenrichest cultural tradition on the face of the earth: innliterature, music, painting, architecture, Arnerica had nevernproduced and will never produce anything comparable.nHow could a man go through life without knowing this?nThe answer is simple: he had an American education. Sincenthe 20’s our schools have been too busy teaching citizenshipnand vocational skills to have any time for history, much lessnpainting.nAssimilation has worked, we are told, andnby ceasing to be Irish or Italian or Czech,nthe immigrants and their children haveneither become American or have createdna new culture for ‘the first universal nation,’nThe Italian experience is not much different from that ofnthe Greeks, Poles, and the Irish who formed ethnic enclavesnin Rockford. Even the Swedes were originally looked downnupon as “dumb Swede” peasants, whose daughters might donas clumsy servant girls, but God forbid if the son of thenfamily developed too much of an interest. The Germansnmay have the most to complain of Despite their largennumbers, they are virtually ignored in the local histories Inhave looked at. Most of this oblivion is due to thenanti-German propaganda of the two World Wars, when ancampaign was waged against the teaching of German evennin the private schools of the Lutheran Church MissourinSynod. In Rockford there used to be a Berlin Avenue in thensame neighborhood with Paris, Rome, and London, but thenname was changed during a wave of anti-German hysteria.nEventually, however, the Germans and the Swedesnintermarried with the Yankees and joined the NorthernnEuropean power structure. In this generation even Italian-nSwedish matches have become common. Does this mean,nas Richard Alba argues, that a new pan-European identity isnemerging? No. What seems to happen is that either one ornthe other heritage dominates or else the family loses anynsense of ethnic identity. All that is left is white skin, whichndistinguishes them from Latinos and blacks. I wonder if partnof the growing racism in America is not due to thenderacination of the old ethnic stocks.nThe low-level ethnic tensions surface in a number ofnways in Rockford. People here are generally kind andnpleasant, like most Midwesterners. As drivers, however, theynare incredibly rude (as well as incompetent), and they willnimpatiently tailgate a car with its turn-signal on as if to say,n”Who the hell are you to be in my way?” In supermarkets,nthey wander through the aisles, completely reckless ofnanyone else’s existence or safety. When they are notnrunning you over, they are staring at you with a directnessn16/CHRONrCLESnnnthat strangers find uncomfortable. A visiting friend from thenSouth, after experiencing two stores in one day, observednthat in South Carolina a man who acted like a Rockfordiannwould be punched out in five minutes.nThis contrast is obviously exaggerated, and there is anrelaxed Midwestern set of good manners that gives manynolder Rockfordians a pleasantly youthful air; unfortunately,nthis air has not been handed down to the current generation,nand the well-bred Midwesterner is generally over 60.nWhat explains the difference in manners noted by mynfriend? South Carolinians are not actually nicer thannRockfordians. Despite their good manners, Southerners arena good deal more dangerous than Midwesterners. I think thenmain difference is that while South Carolinians live by anninherited code of manners, the peoples who settled Rockfordnarrived with quite different, often conflicting codes, andnwhile most of them have lost their old manners, they havenneither adopted the manners of the old Yankees nor createdna new common code.nThe failure was not inevitable. Charleston has its share ofnGermans, Italians, and Irish, but they all act and speak likenCharlestonians. I think there are two reasons for this success.nFirst, the immigrants came in at a slow enough rate to benabsorbed, and second, they were entering a powerful culturencapable of transforming anyone — Yankee or European —ninto a Southerner. But the transforming capacity of Charlestonnor New Orleans needs to be explained in a centurynwhen local attachments have been steadily loosened by thenfingers of national government and national culture.nFart of the answer is to be found in 1861, when thenhotheads in Charleston did their best to start the WarnBetween the States. South Carolina has always acted as if itnwere a sovereign state and Charleston — “the holy city” —nas if it were Rome, or at least Constantinople. A collegenfriend once told me that he had spent his Wanderjahr innEurope and after seeing London, Paris, and Rome he hadnconcluded that those cities were all right in their own way,nbut there was no place like Charleston.nThat is the attitude which all small town Americans usednto take. Sinclair Lewis mocks George Babbitt’s devotionnto Zenith City, but as long as the citizens still lovednDuluth, it had a chance of living up to Babbitt’s boosterism.nConsidering the real and substantial advantages offered bynRockford, I am always surprised by the lack of civic pride.nRockford is actually a pleasant place to live, with tree-linednneighborhoods that might be the setting for a Father KnowsnBest episode. But in talking to the natives, I hear mosdynabout poor schools, bad weather, and the lack of opportunities.nRockford is always near the bottom of the Places Ratednsurveys, and this announcement usually brings forth a tepidndefense of the city amid resentful criticisms of the survey.nNo one gets really angry; they accept it as a matter of coursenthat whatever it is that makes a place attractive, Rockford justndoesn’t have it. Enough Rockfordians have moved tonScottsdale to hold a Rockford picnic, and there are similarnenclaves in Florida. Good Rockfordians all go to the Sunbeltnwhen they die, as Oscar Wilde might have said, and some ofnthem try to anticipate death by a decade or two.nRecently, a prominent local politician returning from antour of the “Sunbelt states” conceded that, oh sure.n