Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Hazards of Family Lore, 2012 Style

I doubt there's a family in existence which doesn't have some kind of lore to it, often going back generations. Some of it may be true, some of it may be a certain kind of true (as Obiwan would put it) and some of it may be tall tales from old grandmothers and aunts. You never know. 

According to my family lore, my great grandfather and great grandmother on my mother's side were both Irish citizens. They fled Ireland and moved to America for a better future. 

This is what my mother believed and, thus, it's what I was taught growing up. I had dreams of my mother getting a tiny, rural Irish cottage, now that she's on the road to retiring. I figured it would be no sweat, since gaining her gaining Irish citizenship seemed like no sweat -- because that's where her grandfather was born. I  even had dreams of visiting it and connecting with my Irish roots.

Yet, if I were running for US Senate today and I said that was my background, Scott Brown would be calling me a liar. 

My mother's been doing genealogy research lately and, low and behold, she pinned down the fact that my great grandfather was actually born in Newfoundland, Canada. It was his family that was descended from Ireland, but even then, he was a generation or two removed. We were both shocked.

The point is that we all have very little knowledge of what came before us, even if we had that aunt or uncle we were told knew all about the family history and they "could trace it back 500 years!"  That aunt or uncle's genealogical prowess could quite likely be greatly exaggerated, or they could have passed without passing that knowledge on or keeping good records of it -- so only the lore remain. 

None of this is to say Elizabeth Warren's family history is wrong. Elizabeth Warren's great-great grandfather could very well be Cherokee, but we'll probably never know. 

Documentation of that kind, from that era, is almost impossible to find for anyone, never mind someone who would been around the freaking Trail of Tears, one of the worst and sorriest incidents in American history. Very little was left of the Cherokee nation after that, and a lot of records were lost -- to say nothing of land or culture.

That's why I get really PO'd about these Elizabeth Warren stories about her Native American background.

We'll probably never know just how Cherokee her great-great grandfather was, but what does it matter? She was told a bit of family lore, family lore that made her proud, and now it's being twisted and warped.

At the end of the day, this is a complete non-issue. Judging by the polls, the people get it, too. 

Just look at latest Suffolk News poll, which showed Elizabeth Warren gaining 8 points and tying the race up. That's saying something in and of itself, but things become even clearer when looking at the other questions. 72% of those polled knew of the story and 69% didn't think it was a big deal. That's not 69% of the 72%, but 69% of the entire poll. 

In other words, this is a total non-issue. It's time the media figure that out and actually get to the stuff that matters. Otherwise, it's giving a free pass to the incumbent, who dearly wants to talk about anything -- except the stuff that matters. The reason is simple: as soon as people realize he's for oil tax subsidies, zero accountability on Wall Street and doubling the interest rates on student loans, his campaign is sunk.

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