How many jackasses do you know?
No, I am serious.
I encounter nearly and endless stream of them on my way to work every day. Jackasses who cut me off on the highway; unfriendly baristas who serve me up cups of annoyance; rude, inconsiderate, just generally nasty, disgruntled human beings who I could just do without.
I can also rattle off at least half a dozen people who hate my stinkin' guts for whatever ill-conceived notion they have of me.
And thus I am always stunned by people who have this sort of admiration for they ancestors who they known nothing about except perhaps dates of birth and death. They ought to do some math.
You have 2 parents, right?
Eight great grandparents...
Sixteen great-greats, and so on.
By the time you get up to your 10th great grandparents there are 4,096 of them. Add all those generations up and by your 10th great grandparents there are 8,190 people directly responsible for your existence.
Ya think one of them might have done something awful?
Recently I had a client who I lead back to a rather famous 10th great grandparent. While reading though that individual's biography the client exclaimed, "Ugh, we were involved in wars with the natives?! Ugh. I don't like that."
I quickly stated that NO, you weren't fighting native peoples, this guy was. Some of your ancestors were not good people because, well, they were people. They made bad decisions some of which hurt others. They did this because they were, um, human.
I believe it is very important for people to learn their history for this very reason. You are not them but yet, you kind of need to own their history to some degree; in the sense that you should learn from their errors.
I'll tell you, nothing was so disturbing to me as discovering slave owners in my own direct ancestry. At 16 I saw a will of my 7th great grandfather which contained the names of two people in there among the linens and furniture. I was deeply upset and disgusted really. No one really thinks of slavery here on Long Island certainly not in the household of a prominent religious figure of the time. There was something very humbling and almost humiliating about the experience.
But ya know what?
I don't own slaves but I do own that history. I make it my business to treat people of all races with respect and I do all I can to make others aware of the history of their ancestors and community.
So for those of you who can trace their ancestry back 300 or 400 years or more and enjoy boasting about your forefather (and mothers), you might want to take a breath and examine those ancestors lives. Ask yourself why you are so eager to own those individuals who chartered their way to this continent but not the bank robbers, bigamists, and generally bad people you might find...because guess what, you aren't any of them. And yet, you are all of them. The sins of the father are not the sins of the son. Those sins are the lessons you get to learn without any of the guilt and none of the glory.