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Monday, March 18, 2013

Chopping Down the Family Tree

I  guess I'm lucky - I don't identify with any particular ethnic group, or 'people'. There's no pull toward tradition, or a homeland. No special meals for St. Patrick's Day, or the Emperor's Birthday, or Kwanza. A loose cannon rolling free through life. Kind of fun.

It can, however lead to some pretty stunning insensitivities on my part.

I made the comment to my wife that I find it absurd that there are people who are still taking umbrage over things that happened to their ancestors a hundred and more years ago. "They did this to my people!"

My thought was, "Come on. You don't know the people who were victimized, and neither did your parents. The policies that allowed those things to happen are long since changed, and the people who implemented the cruelties are long since dead."

Barbara said, "Careful..."

Not being the more clued-in conversationalist, I went on to say that getting mad about what happened to one's ancestors is a form of posing - like a non-pilot wearing a flight jacket. It's assuming a privilege one didn't earn.


So i wrapped up with a comment that this kind of 'put on' emotion is something for people who really don't have a life.

Well, I was set straight. Very straight! It seems that there are people to whom family and clan history are a vital part of who they are, and in criticizing their identification I'm disrespecting them ('The' includes my wife.)

Additionally, without a sense of where we come from, how can we know where we're going? How can we focus on what those cultures have to offer? One can't just cherrypick the good parts about 'tribal' history from popular books- one has to look at the full context, and the only way that can be preserved is through the preservation of living history in the form of members who honor their past.

Okay, I give.

The more right you think you are, the more wrong you can be.

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