Thursday, April 23, 2015

You Still Can't Pick Your Relatives.

There is a small part of me that can empathize with Ben Affleck, who discovered, via his participation in the PBS documentary series “Finding Your Roots”, he had at least one ancestor who owned slaves. As I wrote in a post from 2009,you can't pick your relatives. It can be disheartening to learn that one might be related - no matter how distantly - to a less than admirable person.

To say that I was upset to learn that I shared a common ancestor with former President Jimmy Carter would be an understatement.

I can't say, however, that I agree with Affleck's response to the genealogical data. While I wasn't exactly overjoyed to find out that I was distantly related to one of the worst President in American history, I didn't hide from that fact. I owned up to our distant kinship in a blog post. Affleck, on the other hand, asked that the slave owning ancestor not be included in the documentary. His fans were to be left in the dark.

I am not at all bothered by the fact that Ben Affleck had an ancestor who owned slaves. That has absolutely no relationship to who Affleck is as a human being. I am bothered, however, that Affleck would ask PBS to leave out the information about the "bad" ancestor, while highlighting that Affleck was descended from someone who fought in the American Revolution. Affleck can neither take the credit nor receive the blame for things his ancestors did.

Affleck wouldn't be the first Progressive in recent years to fudge a bit when bringing up his or her genealogy. Hillary Clinton was recently called out for "exaggerating" the number of immigrant grandparents she had. She had claimed that all four of her grandparents had emigrated to the US, although it turns out that census data and draft cards from the 1920′s and 1930′s revealed that her paternal grandmother was born in Pennsylvania, and both of her maternal grandparents were born in Illinois.

Elizabeth Warren, beloved favorite of Progressives, was once promoted by Harvard Law School as a Native American faculty member even though she has no proven Native American ancestry.

Bottom line - be who you are. You are not your own grandpa. You cannot take credit for the good they may have done or be blamed for their transgressions.

Although I can understand Ben Affleck not wanting to claim this relative.

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