The Daily

Where Are You From?

I can give you that historical bird’s eye view. But I cannot readily explain the mystery of Leonard Side’s inheritance.  Most of us know the parents and grandparents we come from. But we go back and back, forever; we go back all of us to the very beginning; in our blood and bone and brain we carry the memories of thousands of beings. I might say that an ancestor of Leonard Side’s came from the dancing groups of Lucknow, the lewd men who paint their faces and tried to live like women. But that would only be a fragment of the truth. We cannot understand all the traits we inherited.  Sometimes we can be strangers to ourselves.

A Way In The World, V.S. Naipual

Last year, we lost many greats from the music world: Lou Reed, Tom Petty, Prince and Bowie among others. As much as those losses hurt, I was equally affected by the recent death of V.S. Naipaul, the ornery Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of people and place. His loss at a time when we are losing our sense of community from deep divisions seemed particularly acute.

So I decided to write a series of posts about family history as a way to assuage my sense of loss. This seems more productive than obsessing over another minute of the latest political outrages or yet another guilty plea from those running the blocks. I wrote about history when I started this blog, trying to introduce the origins of the jury trial and how that essential right became a part of the Bill of Rights and our founding Constitutional principles. You can read the seven-part series “What is a Jury Trial?” series on this blog by clicking these links: 1, 23, 4, 56, 7.

Rather than focusing on American sources and focusing on the direct references for our democratic experiment, I’d like to take it back farther as suggested by Naipaul. We all come from somewhere and if you take it all the way back it may be the same original source material. As the Beatles posited, nothing is really original. My Grandmother, Eleanor Bortz Thompson, did her best to trace the family lineage and as the family repository of the fruit of those efforts, I’ve given a lot of thought to where we came from and how we got here.

A lot of families, including small children and infants, are currently being held against their will in American detention centers. That makes this kind of personal investigation timely if not newsworthy. If my family had the right to pursue their dream of freedom, far from danger and persecution in Europe – I have trouble understanding the justification for hassling similar dreamers fleeing similar persecution on this continent. Is it simply a matter of being born too late, seeking asylum the wrong way or not filing the proper paperwork and committing a misdemeanor?

On a related note, a Customs and Border Patrol Agent in Texas was just arrested for being a serial killer and killing more than four women he hunted in his professional capacity. US Border Patrol Agent Charged As A Serial Killer. This guy was not part of MS-13 or the Mexican criminal underground. He is a US Navy veteran and a ten-year agent with Customs. So, spare me the broad brush generalizations designed to demonize people crossing the Rio Grande.

We cannot understand all the traits we inherited.  Sometimes we can be strangers to ourselves.