Saturday, September 23, 2006


In my youth the melting-pot ideal--assimilation--was still the goal of American society. Each year there was a parade of new citizens called "I Am an American Day."
While the jingoistic flavor of these events may have been regrettable, they signaled a wish that we become all one people.

Now that aim has been reversed, and we are urged to accept our "ethnic heritage(s)." Be diverse! Be very diverse! That is not a recipe for a successful society.

In the course of my adult life I have visited some forty countries. I try to keep up with writings in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. I am hoping to revive my Chinese and add to my skimpy Arabic. In short I am a believer in Matthew Arnold's ideal of availing oneself of the best that has been thought and written.

For that reason I think that it is too bad that some would restrict themselves to the productions of only one language group or nation.

I like to say that no one can guess my ethnicity unless I tell them. I like it that way. I have spent only one week in the (nominal) country of my "roots." It was OK, but I have no plans to go back.

Now I have found an ethnicity I can acknowledge, though. It's Basque. I must start learning the language.

It seems that DNA samples from a variety of places in the British Isles have shown that the bulk of the population there does not derive from any of the well-known invasions. The Anglo-Saxons did not ethnically cleanse the Celts before they settled down. Neither did the Celts. And the Vikings were few. All of these were elite adjuncts to an existing population, which was truly old European. In other words it may be Basque, because the Basques represent the last remnant of a much larger original pre-Indo-European language pool. As a gene complex that pool still survives--big time.

I'm not saying which of the far-flung ensemble of Basque countries my ancestors come from, though.


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