We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A,’ huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts!
Bill Murray as John Winger in the movie Stripes 1981
I am an American. Therefore, I am a mutt. If you were to look at me, you would say he is a White Anglo Saxon Protestant. Well, to start I am Catholic. Then somewhere in my DNA, you will find some traces of North Africa, Native American, Italy/Greece, and perhaps some Spanish from the Iberian Peninsula. I guess you could say I am a variety of ethnicity. I know I have primarily English roots from Great Britain and Ireland, but even they have not gotten along for hundreds of years. Also, if you were Irish in the United States not that long ago, you were discriminated against and held down to the lowest economic levels. However, it is not the point of this post to show the trouble that certain groups have had or are having now. What I would like to say is just relax a little because it is working. Call it a melting pot or a salad or any of the many descriptions I have heard about our great mixture of people; it is a magical blend that works. Besides it would be very annoying if you went to a farmer’s market and all anyone had to sell were potatoes.
I would like to give you three quick examples of the many ways I have seen this mixture work. The first was when I was perhaps ten years old. As a young boy, one of the things we use to do was to play war. We were always on the hunt for the Hun or a sneaky Jap. The shows on television had many war adventure stories, Sergeant Rock was a popular comic book hero, many of our fathers and uncles had served in World War Two or Korea. My father had served in Patton’s 3rd Army and came home with medals and memories both which were never shared and gathered dust. A young couple moved into the small apartment on the side of the house that we lived in. He was in the air force, and she was from Germany. She spoke English very well but still had an accent and at times stumble over words. I was not sure what to think about this as up to then in our play world we shot the Germans and overran their machine guns, always done with great courage. So I asked my Dad what he thought about a German living here. After all, it was only about 15 years since he was fighting them for real. The best I can remember of what he said all those years ago was that he found that they bleed and suffered just like anyone else. Then he told me about the beautiful parks that Germany had. That even in the midst of the war how they kept the parks up, and he found them very beautiful. He said other things, but it is jumbled up in the passing of the years. He did give my young mind much to consider.
My second example is when we had young children many families in the neighborhood we lived in would bring children from Northern Ireland over for a few weeks in the summer to give them a “break” from the conflict going on in their home country. They would be boys and girls, Protestant, and Catholic. Many children would come over to the same families for many years. I have heard criticism about this program and how it did not accomplish much and may have been harmful in some ways. All I know is that they seemed to have a good time and many smiles and much laughter as they spent the summer here in America. One day I had a conversation with one of the older Irish youths, and he was telling me about his discoveries here in America. In our neighborhood, we had both a Catholic and a Methodist church in proximity to each other. I asked him about his thought on that and if he thought since during the summer he interacted with people from both religions if that would help him when he got home. He looked at me and said “the Protestants here are different than those at home. He would have to fight them when he got back home.” The answer bothered me then and still does to this day. Here we make it work. It must be in our DNA.
My third and last example took place at the time of the infamous 9/11 attacks. There is no need to go over these attacks as they are fresh in our memories. With this being the year of the 15th anniversary we all have had a refresher on those dark days. It was a few weeks after the attacks that I found myself at the Syracuse Regional Market or as everyone else calls it the farmer’s market. Every Saturday local farmers and artisans gather in five large warehouse type buildings and an outdoor area to sell their goods. This is a splendid gathering of all kinds of people both selling and buying. It was in the middle of this humanity that I stood to one side and closed my eyes. I could clearly hear laughter and the chorus of voices in many different accents and languages. I could clearly hear a couple from India, the Italian voice selling fish, a Jamaican accent was heard in the distance, and the strangest accent of all made me open my eyes. There he was a man from Boston wearing a Red Sox baseball cap. Apparently a stranger here in central New York. Then as I looked around, I noticed and studied the different styles of dress and facial features and skin color that was surrounding me. Suddenly I felt better than I had since the attacks. As I looked all around me I realized it works, our wonderful way of life works. If you do not think it does go and get a DNA test and look at your results.
This post took on a life of its’ own. I had planned to talk about some of the great discoveries that I have made by having the DNA testing done. I have made contact with cousins and have added to my family tree. I have been able to break through some small barriers and been able to prove out some of my family tree. I will be writing about these stories in the future
My advice to everyone is to have your DNA tested. But not only yourself but the oldest members of your family. I wish these tests were available when some of my older relatives were alive. You never know what discoveries you will make down the road. DNA testing is a genealogy tool for us to use. In my opinion not to use it would be like not using the census records.
As you can see, I used the testing offered by ancestry.com. However, this is by no means an endorsement saying you should also use them. Just like DNA we are all different and have different needs. Take a look around and study the offerings that are out there. Select the one that you think will best work for you. I also advise not to worry too much about going into great depth in understanding the details on how and why it all works. I could not build a car or a computer. But I understood what I need in both and selected the one I needed based on that. The same with DNA testing. Read up on it study what each company offers and then take the plunge.