Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Prejudice

The young couple in the elevator with me had on enormous backpacks. They were tall – both of them easily over six feet – and blonde. When I asked them where they were from they said West Germany. They were on their honeymoon, the woman told me. Both of them were newly qualified doctors who hoped to volunteer for Medicins sans Frontieres and they had just been on a tour of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They had visited the Peace Park and met with Japanese doctors who had treated patients with radiation sickness.

The more I talked with this couple, the more impressed I was. As important as it is, the Peace Park in Hiroshima is the last place most people would want to visit on their honeymoon. They were on their way to Vietnam, and their final destination was Cambodia. They had worked for Amnesty International, of which they were both members, as well as various other humanitarian organizations. They were young and idealistic, compassionate and – amazingly enough, considering all their accomplishments and the fact that they were doctors – humble.

After checking in, we sat down and waited in the reception area, as we were a bit early. A young Japanese teenager joined us and asked us where we were from. ‘America,’ I said, and she nodded. She knew America, of course. She had been to Los Angeles. She’d liked Disneyland so well that she’d been there twice in one week. She then asked the young couple where they were from. ‘West Germany,’ answered the wife with a smile. The Japanese girl nodded, then saluted smartly: Heil Hitler! she cried cheerfully, beaming at us.

All three of us knew that she didn’t mean any harm by this: she was just young and silly and almost heartbreakingly innocent in her wholly unintentional cruelty. But it was an excruciating moment. The young woman left soon after this, and there was a short, awkward silence.

‘Wherever we go, we take it with us,’ remarked the wife quietly. ‘Our country's past. The War. It is our constant companion.”

There was nothing I could say to this. Given their height, their extreme blondness and their strong German accents, when we first met, I too had thought -- however fleetingly -- of Hitler's Germany. I just had more sense than to say Heil Hitler.

I have thought of that young couple often, over the years. With all their good work and high ideals, they had the bad fortune to come from a country with a dreadful past -- one which few people are not well aware of. I have often thought with shame about my reaction to Germans: Wonder what they think about the war? Wonder if their parents were Nazis? and how that reaction, whether I like it or not, is based on prejudice.

I ought to know better. While I don't think America's evil empire has come close to Nazi Germany's, my country has certainly been responsible for atrocities and a misuse of power, and as an American I resent being stereotyped as racist, shallow and xenophobic. I'm tired of being questioned about my politics and my social awareness, and I know that people whose countries have a troubled past must feel the same. But when I hear a German accent, the Second World War invariably springs to mind. I have a veneer of politeness -- unlike that young girl I'm not gauche, ignorant, or callously honest -- but deep down inside, I too judge others on their outward appearance, the way they speak. I try to suppress this, but I find myself doing it anyway. And I know I'm not alone. I'm not prejudiced! I've heard so many people say whenever the subject comes up. I know what they mean, but I wonder if they really know what they're saying.

Virtually all of us born in this day and age have learned to pre-judge others. Like it or not, prejudice is part of our human condition. It is so easy to categorize people by accent, nationality, clothing, skin color, class, occupation, choice of words -- you name it. We don't have to be Nazis or card-carrying Klan members; we all have this in us to some degree.

But acknowledging the problem is the first step towards getting rid of it.

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30 comments:

Kara said...

Wonder what they think about the war? Wonder if their parents were Nazis? and how that reaction, whether I like it or not, is based on prejudice.

Well, part of it is that it's very likely too. Germany isn't that big of a country and the war wasn't that long ago...so the chances are good that they had nazis in their families. I think what you wondered was natural...not prejudiced. If you thought less of them because of it...well then that's different. I would've thought them lucky assholes them for being tall and slender...how's that for horrible?

The Anti-Wife said...

Some things are deeply buried in our subconscious. Things we were taught at a very early age can come back to haunt us. That doesn't mean we are prejudiced now. It just reminds us of how we DON'T want to be and furthers our resolve.

Kim Ayres said...

Part of our evolution means we are more likely to survive if we can make quick decisions in a crisis. Consequently short-hand categorisations come very naturally to us. This can have benefits, but also limitations. If we pigeonhole people at first glance we can miss out on an enormous amount of interesting and rewarding experiences and friendships.

You're absolutely right - the first step is in recognising that we all do this, the second is then realising that we have it within us to go beyond our instinctive behaviours

debra said...

Funny how the prejudices we never knew we had come right up and kick us in the behind----or in the face.
Maybe it's not a bad thing to find out what is buried deep inside. Then, as you say, we can do something about it.

Carolie said...

What a thought-provoking post, Mary! Thank you.

I think you hit a really important point about prejudice. We all have prejudices and small bigotries, try as we might not to have them. But recognizing them, facing them, seeing clearly that certain visceral reactions are exactly that -- prejudices -- is imperative.

I am not only an avid reader, but a rather OCD reader. I find it almost impossible to start a book and not finish it, even if I am not enjoying the book. I feel some sort of obligation to the book to finish what I start.

Last night, I finally put aside, unfinished, a book I've been trying very hard to read. The writing is not bad, the plot is quite interesting...but the author makes me crazy (ok, craziER!) with her descriptions. Every new character is introduced with a visual run-down, and she lets the reader know immediately if this character will be a "good guy" or a "bad guy" simply by how she describes him or her.

Good posture and a "steady gaze?" "Tattered but clean" clothing? Good guy.

Greasy hair and "furtive glances?" "Needs a bath" in this wilderness, post-armageddon society? Bad guy.

Period.

It was amusing the first time a Bad Guy character was introduced. I rolled my eyes the second time. But after the fourth or fifth time, it began to make me angry. Sure, part of my frustration was because there was no tension (I knew immediately which newcomer to the storyline would make problems), but part of my anger was due to the way the author plays on the reader's prejudices (and exposes her own) with such blatant generalizations.

I began to hope rather fiercely that a "clean-limbed" and clear-skinned young woman with a steady blue-eyed gaze would somehow threaten a baby and a couple of puppies, and a stinky, shifty-eyed, gaunt fellow with bad teeth, a sneer and a limp would save them!

I agree with Kim that some of our prejudices are "shorthand" ways our body helps us recognize danger. But as he says, if we only respond to those first, unthinking reactions to people and refuse to think through, and PAST our prejudices, we miss out on an "enormous amount of interesting and rewarding experiences and friendships."

On the flip side of the coin, judging others based only on those first, visceral reactions, we also leave ourselves susceptible to the well-groomed, well-spoken serial killers and con men (Con women? Conspeople? Oh, to hell with it!)

Mary Witzl said...

Kara -- Yes, I was probably correct in my assumptions, but still -- shame on me. I get irritated when people, on hearing my American accent, automatically stereotype me, and yet this incident reminded me that I do it too. If the Japanese girl hadn't spoken up, I might not even have given it a moment's thought.

I was tall and slender back then myself. I'm still tall. And you look to me to be pretty slender and VERY blonde...

Anti-wife -- I'm pretty lucky on that front: what my parents taught me at an early age was all good stuff. But the world around you is an influence. Books, the media, school, friends, neighbors -- they all have a lot to do with how we view others. But you are right: even having learned how to judge and hate does not doom us to a lifetime of this -- as long as we have the resolve not to be that way.

Kim -- It really is true that we learn to make these quick judgments of others almost as a defense mechanism. Someone who smells bad -- or very different -- or who looks different, puts us on our guard. Most of the time we're hardly aware of our responses to others and how quickly they are elicited. But I am glad there are people who know that recognizing this is crucial if we're going to do anything about it.

Debra -- This has happened to me countless times: I look at people and make assumptions -- only to have them turn out completely wrong, leaving me amazed at my lack of perception. They say that learning is the sign of higher mammals: maybe what I'm fighting is just too big for my puny brain.

Carolie -- Just hearing about that book makes me want to gag. I too feel compelled to read whatever I've started, straight through to the bitter end even if it turns out to be an awful book, just like I always clean my plate. If I ever leave anything on my plate, then I'm either ill or it was virtually inedible. If I don't finish a book, it should never have been published. So I don't think I could have gotten through that book you gave up on either. I love it when I can't spot the good guy in movies; when the shabbily dressed, seedy-looking fellow or the highly made up tart turns out to be heroic. I hate to think I'd fare in that novel: on the days I don't go into town to work, I'd definitely be a bad guy. No doubt about it. I have been known to limp, and I even sneer sometimes.

Carolie said...

Heh, I'm right there with you, Mary...on days I don't have to leave the house, I'd definitely be pegged as a Bad Guy by that author!

I've tagged you for a meme (I know, I know, please forgive me!) Please visit http://wordmagix.blogspot.com/ to participate.

Kappa no He said...

When I first came here, Americans could do no wrong. Of all my International friends (Italian, German, Canadian, Australian, etc.) I was the princess.

Then things began to change. With the Ol 'Shock and Awe'... and all that followed, still continues. Faces now fall when I say where I come from. It's very interesting.

I love hearing about couples like that. I met a Swiss couple traveling in China once who were doing similar things. Fascinating people.

Kanani said...

Years ago when I lived in Nor Cal, I brought a German friend with me to visit some friends down in L.A. We went to visit a good friend, who asked us to come with her to her Dad's at dinner.

I didn't think twice about it --I loved her Dad! So we went.

Her Dad met Martin, and the two of them started easily conversing. Martin looked at me and laughed. "He's speaking German but using some very old words!"

Turns out, Otto was a Jew, whose family had all but been torn asunder by the holocaust. His family had been wealthy --and Otto had gotten out because the Dad sent him to the US to study before everything went to hell.

For Martin, it was a chance to speak with a Jew who had lived through the period. This had never happened before. For Otto, it was a chance to catch up with this younger generation.

For both, it was a meaningful visit. Martin told me a lot about his family, as did another German friend later on. Both had a shame that wasn't theres, yet felt it nonetheless. Martin
remembered asking his mother how she could watch a much loved Jewish pediatrician taken away. He said she didn't have a good answer.
All I could say was, "Well, it was the times." Not much of an answer but true.

As for you being American in a different country. Not easy. We're not popular, and when I've traveled, I've gotten around it a bit by not looking like one and then saying, "I'm from L.A." Usually the conatations are of Hollywood. But ocasionally, I do get the lambasting.

What can I say? For the most part I agree. But life isn't that straight forward, things are usually more complex than people are willing to consider.

Mary Witzl said...

Carolie -- I'm dressed and ready for work right now, so that author would think I was a good guy. I've even cleaned my shoes and dealt with my nails, so that clinches it: 100% good guy, no doubt.

That meme looks great: I'll happily join in, but I'm still not going to top wardrobe mistress for a circus, for pity's sake!

Kappa no He -- I've been through this. You tell people you are an American and watch their faces fall almost as though an awning comes down. Never mind that I didn't vote for the fellow; never mind that I can't even bear to watch him on t.v.; we share a nationality and that is enough for most people to go on. I make a note to try not to do the same -- and I think of that German couple.

In Taiwan, I met a man from Switzerland who made a mockery of everything I've ever heard about the Swiss (boring, provincial). See? I'm doing it again!

Kanani -- I'm glad that Otto was good enough to talk to your friend. I remember some Yiddish-speaking Jewish ladies in Miami who made it a point to talk with young Germans when she could, but many people who survived the holocaust don't much want to talk to any Germans. I once knew a German kid who went to an American university and was, quite coincidentally, given a roommate whose parents had survived Buchenwald. I think the German boy went home with his American roommate once, but the visit was not a great success.

Whenever anyone asks what country I'm from, I tell them straight away, then roll with the punches. I've gone so far as to say I'm from California -- I always hope that will help. Fortunately, most people have forgotten that we're the state that elected Ronald Reagan for governor.

It is a complex situation. All we can do is try to live honorably and speak up when we see see evil acts committed. But that alone is a tall order.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Travel is an enormous eye-opener for tipping prejudices right on their bums. It teaches us to overcome the instincts in all of us that Kim spoke about. I know that as a human being I am daily upbraided by the fact that I don't in fact, know it all and that the world can confound your expectations at any moment.

You're right - the recognition of pre-suppositions in yourself is the best guard against prejudice. Merely telling someone not to be prejudiced doesn't work - you have to come to it yourself through experience, preferably starting as young as possible. Being honest with yourself is also a big part of it. Bigotry only shows mental laziness.

Having said all that though, I say stuff it! Britain has a lot to be ashamed about in its past - Scottish colonialists were amongst the worst - but I reckon it's too much distracting baggage to mess with when you meet someone new - to be wondering what they think of you the whole time. Telling yourself what the hell, I'm a product of a certain place and time - I can't help that, we all are - but while it might influence me, it doesn't define me and anyone worth knowing already knows that's true; telling myself that, has freed me up enormously to just get on with making friends with people. I still do register that people are registering my accent when I first open my gob but ignoring it and getting on with the important stuff has become easier for me. Who cares about prejudices? Don't tell them they're wrong, show 'em by being friendly and honest and willing to listen - not things self-entitled colonialists are noted for.

Not many people know what the Hebrides is like and imagine them to be misty isles where we merrily stalk the hills hunting for haggis or spend long picturesque hours singing heart-breaking laments on the rocks for our sea-drowned husbands and always, always with a dram by our sides. The caricatures run deep. When people ask, all hopeful for tales of island idylls, I have to tell them that Thatcher's Britain reached even us - that all over the island are alcoholics and despair and the suicide rate is the highest in the country. I tell them about vandalism and thuggish young people and hypocrisy and that these things go right alongside all the dewey-eyed stuff. And people don't like to hear it at all, but at least then they know. They'd prefer to keep the romantic image in their heads which doesn't jive with youth drug problems at all. But at least they've heard it - the world's a bit more honest - we can understand each other a bit better and we can get past the prejudices that serve, good or bad, only to keep us in our places.

I don't trust them Welsh though. Leek-eaters.

;)

Carole said...

I was raised without the normal prejudices if there is such a thing. However I knew city-slickers were a bad thing. I knew they waited behind buildings to steal purses and rape unsuspecting women.

Also I needed to be wary of people who had more than a couple crusts of bread. Obviously they made their money dishonestly and didn't give a smidge to the church.

And the other thing my parents taught me to watch out for was people who drink whiskey. You could never tell what manner of evil lurked in their hearts regardless of how happy they appeared.

A Paperback Writer said...

One of the summers I lived in Scotland, I lived next door to a young German fellow named Toby. We actually became good friends because of his expectance that Germans would be maligned because of WWII. One day I happened to tell him that I have a German surname and began to tell him a bit of my family history. He was taken aback that I was proud to have German heritage. In his 20-odd years of life, he had always felt he had to apologize for being German. I was stunned. I told him that even during the Cold War when I grew up, we had considered WWII over. The history books identified Nazis, not the Germans, as the villains. I told him how popular our local Oktoberfest was and how there was even a German-speaking Mormon congregation.
These different points of view were surprising to both of us, but it started a good friendship.

A Paperback Writer said...

Oh, and I should add that it was once pointed out to me that all teachers are inherently prejudiced, as we all believe that it is better to be educated than othewise.
My own personal prejudices are against people who don't make the most of what they've got intellectually and against those who are lazy.
There, I've confessed.

Mary Witzl said...

Sam -- What a good, thoughtful response! As a Scot in California, you have been living the flip side of my life, in many ways. I occasionally find myself having to tell people here that in California we have bad weather, smog, and ordinary people with zits. Most people know that there's more to California than surfers and Hollywood, but it is still a persistent myth. And I confess that your description of the Hebrides is exactly what I pictured when I first came here. In fact, I remember being amazed when Scottish friends in Japan assured me that there was a terrible drug problem in Edinburgh. I couldn't quite fathom this: Scotland struck me as a place of mystical beauty filled with kindly people whose morals were beyond reproach. God knows where I got that idea: many of my ancestors were Scots, and I have to tell you that they did not live up to that ideal.

I agree with you that travel is an eye opener and helps people get rid of some of the nonsense they may have learned as children. But it has been my experience that one's mind has to be receptive for this to work. Close-minded people come back from travel with their stereotypes more firmly ingrained. For me -- and you -- travel has done wonders, I believe. We can feel good about that, and aim for even higher planes.

Know what you mean about the Welsh, though. Thank God they can sing, eh?

Carole -- Some day you must write about your childhood: the little you have revealed about it fascinates me and makes me want to hear much more!

Growing up, I had a few things in common with you. My parents too were somewhat suspicious of those who were highly sophisticated, and my mother had little respect for people who flaunted wealth. (My father, I always felt, secretly admired them.) Both my parents had alcoholics in their family and they dealt with this by becoming 100% tee-total. We grew up next to our aunt and uncle, fundamentalist Christians who believed that drinking condemned you to hell. I remember feeling worried when I saw beer in a friend's refrigerator: how sad that her father, a good man who treated everyone with great kindness, should have such a dreadful weakness. Most likely if I'd seen whisky in their house, I'd have run away screaming...

APW -- Some years back, I met a young German man in Hawaii who, like your friend Toby, was amazed to know that anyone could be proud of being German. My friend was tall, blonde and blue-eyed and could have been a poster boy for Hitler Youth. But there was one catch: his mother was Jewish. His father had smuggled her out of Poland and they had somehow gotten through the War. He claimed they never talked about it; his mother burst into tears whenever he broached the subject.

I can't say I'm necessarily proud of having German ancestry -- I yam what I yam -- but with a name like 'Witzl' (the original spelling) there is no denying it. Amusingly enough, my grandfather, a minor politician, was assumed to be Jewish by a large number of people.

It has been my experience, though, that the people who have forgotten the War tend to be those whose own experiences of it were not 'up close and personal.' My father fought in the War, and although he suffered terribly (his ship was torpedoed and he almost died), he did not starve, have to see his family members killed, endure torture, etc. Anyone who lived through the horrors of the War and managed to forgive -- or emerge emotionally unscathed -- ought to be up for sainthood.

Sarah said...

Hi.
I saw you on Christy's blog.
I'm also a expat currently living in Iceland. I've lived in Brazil and Finland and will be moving to S. China this summer.

I understand your post!
We get a lot of comments and looks when people find out we are Americans. (My DH is a diplomat--so that always either opens people up or they roll their eyes and say nothing.) They assume that all Americans are the same. The natives are often very openly anti-American. Just yesterday a teacher yelled at my 16 year old son because he is a foreigner and they don't like foreigners here. She says she will give him and the other foreign student a bad grade, because they are foreigners.
Some girls told my teenage daughter that all foreigners should be purged.
It is hard at times for my kids.
But we also have positive stories and that is what we try to remember.

Ello said...

A friend of mine married a German and lives in Germany now. She came by this past Christmas and I met her little girl Anne who is 4 years old, blonde, blue eyed beautiful and so very sweet. My friend told me at dinner with her father and her father's new stupid girlfriend, Anne kept raising her hand to wave. It is just a kid thing she does, lots of kids do it. But her father's girlfriend asked if she was doing the Heil hitler sign. HOw incredibly rude. How incredibly wrong. Yes, you can't take prejudice away - but sometimes it is just as much complete ignorance and stupidity.

A Paperback Writer said...

My father is a WWII vet, but he fought in the Philippines, not in Europe. He saw plenty of the horrors of war, for those making the decisions in Japan at the time were just as cruel as the Nazis.
Perhaps it's easier for me to be proud of my German ancestry because I can be certain that none of my ancestors were Nazis -- since they came to the Americas in the late 1600s....

Mary Witzl said...

Sarah -- Thank you for commenting on my blog. What an interesting selection of countries you have lived in! I envy you having the chance to move from country to country, though of course I do not envy you having to experience the unpleasant things you have mentioned. It is especially hard to have your children subject to this sort of meanness.

When I was in graduate school I knew a woman from Iceland. I asked her about her country once and she told me that Icelanders were far more insular than Americans. She wasn't in a big hurry to go back. I can't help but think that a country that refuses to refresh its gene pool will not prosper in the long run.

I tried to post a comment on your blog, but I'm not sure I succeeded! I'll try again.

Ello -- Silly woman to ask a child something like that! Prejudice is a real cocktail. It's partly our instinct to categorize and identify others quickly, partly stupidity handed down by our parents, and partly what we glean from society and our own experiences. Ignorant people are prone to it, especially when they are also insensitive. Your friend's father's girlfriend sounds like she has a particularly bad case.

APW -- Give my regards to your dad and tell him that I know a couple of Battling Bastards. The men who fought in the Philippines not only experienced Japanese cruelty firsthand, but also the arrogance and poor planning of the American command. Was your dad a POW or did he manage to get out in time?

The first Witzls, I have heard, were Hessian soldiers who fought on the British side in the Revolutionary War. After the war, they were abandoned by the British and had no choice but to become Americans. The last German ancestor of mine to arrive in the U.S. came in 1851, so I don't have any Nazis in my family that I know of. But like it or not, we're all bound to have some ancestors who were right jerks.

Sarah said...

Mary--no comment posted.
That is odd if you have an LJ account. Plus, I think my settings allow anon postings.

It is great to "meet" you.

Carole said...

Mary, I appreciate your kindness in asking about my childhood. But although I highlight some of the lighter aspects of it in my posts, I could not write about it honestly in an open forum. But I may try my hand at it in a journal.

Mary Witzl said...

Sarah -- Boy, do I feel silly. I don't have a Live Journal account and I assumed that I could still post without one as long as I posted my blog URL. Okay -- I will go and get one!

Carole -- A while back, you once wrote something on Kim's blog that had me crying: you described a family meal where you were cruelly rebuked by your grandfather simply for wanting seconds. There are aspects of my own childhood that I am not happy to write about, so I can imagine how you must feel. It is not easy, and I'm not even sure that it is always warranted. But I am not suggesting that you write out of kindness; your experiences growing up fascinate me, and I am merely curious. Well, actually, nosy, I suppose! But the little bits you have written about are truly fascinating, and I think that it might be an idea for you to try writing some of the less difficult bits. I love memoirs, and I especially love ones about difficult or unusual childhoods.

If you ever do, let me know and I would be happy to read what you have written.

Sarah said...

It's fast and free to sign up.
Then you can also read people's locked posts, if and when they add you.

Many people maintain accounts to make it simple to leave comments-like Christy.

A Paperback Writer said...

Mary, my dad was mighty lucky and had several very narrow escapes. Because he was (and still is) and artist who'd been raised on a ranch and was a crack shot with a rifle, he and 12 other men were sent ahead many times on Bouganville to map out the area and radio back. Once they had to hide in haystacks in an abandoned village while Japanese troops marched through.
Dad also was one of the first groups of men to cross the river around the university in Manilla and break into the last Japanese stronghold there -- it's quite a tale.
But.
I wanted to tell you something I read today on the website for the Salt Lake Tribune.
You may have heard that Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the LDS (Mormon) church died last week at age 97. Today his sucessor was announced (no surprises here) as Thomas S. Monson. Monson, as tradition and policy both require, has chosen two counselors to help him, and one is a relative new-comer to the church governing body, a native German born in Czechoslovakia (yes, when it was still one country), who later worked for Lufthansa -- a man named Diedrich Utdorf. (I think I spelled that right.)
So, I read this on the Tribune website today, then happened to catch the first in a long line of comments (most of them nasty, as Mormon-bashing is quite normal in Utah). The first person to comment automatically referred to Utdorf's parents as Nazis because of their German background.
Wow.
It was just like you said. I never in the world would've thought of that. After all, it's this man and not his parents who is to be the new leader.
But merely because he's German (and has the heavy accent to go with it...), some jerk assumed he had a Nazi background.
Absolutely amazing.
You are so right about all of this.

Sarah said...

I replied to you comment.
Quite strange that LJ isn't letting you login.

I hope that LJ decides to cooperate!
Have a great day.

Mary Witzl said...

Sarah -- I've done it! I've successfully signed up to LiveJournal. Boy, am I proud.

And I know it has nothing to do with Iceland, but I almost felt that I could hear the ice snapping and cracking as I successfully posted my comment!

APW -- Yes, I did read about Gordon Hinckley, and the fact that he had to pick a successor.

The Nazis' genocide was horrific and despicable. And the legacy they left to young Germans is a crying shame.

As the great-great-great (etc) granddaughter of slave-owners, I ought to know that I am no more a white supremacist than someone with a German accent is a Nazi -- and yet I too have had this ugly knee-jerk reaction. I wonder how many generations it will take to get rid of all these ugly prejudices, and I wish I didn't suspect that even if we get rid of them, more will crop up to take their place.

A Paperback Writer said...

I actually think that globalization is helping to rid us of some prejudices. Ignorance breeds prejudice. When everyone in your little town is alike, it's easy to assume that anyone who thinks/dresses/eats/looks/breathes differently is wrong and you are right. Internet and TV are helping to make people realize that sometimes different is just different.
Yeah, we've still got a looooooong way to go. But I see that the kids I teach now are less isolationist than the kids I taught 15 years ago.

A Paperback Writer said...

Oh, and on the idea of living down one's relatives' reputations: your great-great was a slave holder, my g-g-grandpa was a polygamist. Yup. Five wives and 32 kids (that we know of). Scary, eh?

Mary Witzl said...

APW -- I think you're right about globalization ridding us of some of our prejudices. This is the flip side of losing regional accents and colorful folk traditions, I suppose.

Maybe we should just think of our pasts as colorful. Said the woman kin to Simon Legree and Jesse James to the woman with 32 great uncles and aunts and God knows how many cousins. What a relief that we had precious little to do with it!

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