Monday, November 4, 2013

About those racist old white guys...

No, this is not about radio personalities or (shudder) Fox News. No, this is about those other racist white guys - in Greece.

I unfortunately count myself as one of those guys that got roped into watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I will admit that I don't remember much about the plot line, or even really who the actors or actresses were. If you really care you can go to the link above, and look it up. I don't really... There are three things I remember about that movie. The first and second have nothing to do with my point here, so of course I will write about them first.

As I remember it, there is a scene where the partriach is walking the family dog, and they see the full and magical moon. He looks up and cries 'la luna!'. It becomes something of a theme throughout the movie, that the crazy moon drives much of the love crazy actions throughout the movie. Every once in a while, when I see a full moon, I smile and think of that movie, that scene.

The second is a scene where the mother is asking the daughter if she loves the man she is about to marry. When the daughter yes the mother says something like, "too bad, he'll drive you crazy". That has always seemed about right to me, no matter what side of the fence you are on.

The third thing I remember about movie was the manic pride the father had for his mother country. He had filled his front yard with replicas of famous Greek statues, and festooned his yard with Greek flags. So to anyone who saw that movie, the existence of a political party in Greece that has fascist tendencies modeled on the 'master race' principles of the Third Reich is really not that much of a shock. What is surprising is that the whole Greek financial crisis matured to where it is today without a mention of any this in any press. But it got me to thinking, how did such a group come to be? What makes a cultural pride morph into a something nasty? Most importantly, what is the difference between them and say, any other group of old white guys that causes a different outcome?

My supposition here is that pride in race or culture is essentially what caused these types to go astray. So they question comes to mind, if it happened there, why didn't it happen here? After all, weren't all of our founding fathers essentially white guys? It's been a long time since I had American History, so, embarrassingly, I had to admit that I really didn't know that much about the ancestry of our founding fathers. In my defense, I doubt the founding father's ancestry was well covered in the social crucible that was the public school system for Memphis in the late 70s. I therefore decided to look it up. Just for fun, I thought i'd pass on what I found:

George Washington: Father: Augustine Washington, born in Westmoreland, VA in 1694. Grandfather: Lawrence Washington, militia captain and member of House of Burgess, born in Westmoreland, VA in 1659. Great Grandfather: John Washington, born in Pruleigh, Essex in 1633, owner of a estate in South Cave, East Yorkshire and emigrated in 1658.

John Adams: Father: John Adams Sr. - fifth generation descendant to Henry Adams who emigrated from Braintree, Essex in 1638.

Thomas Jefferson: Father: Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor. Possibly of Welsh descent but I was unable to find any definitive linkages on a cursory look.

James Madison Jr: Father: James Madison Sr, a tobacco planter that grew up on a plantation. His great grandfather was a sea captian, Issac Madison, who was born in London England in 1590.

Ben Franklin: One of twenty children of Josiah Franklin, a businessman from Ecton, Nothhamptonshire, England. His father was a blacksmith and a farmer there.

Thomas Paine: Son of Joseph Pain (later Paine), a Quaker, and mother Frances (an Anglican) <gasp - a mixed marriage>, who hailed from rural Norfolk, England.

Patrick Henry: Father: John Henry (not the railroad guy), immigrant from Abberdeenshire, Scotland.

Alexander Hamilton: Probably the most interesting heritage of the group of otherwise cookie cutter old white guys. He was born out of wedlock  to an otherwise married women of partial French Huguenot descent, Rachel Faucette in Charlestown, on the island of Nevis, which is the capitol island of the Leeward Islands. His father was a scoundrel named James Hamilton, the fourth son of a Scottish laird from Grange Ayrshire. There is a real romance novel in there somewhere...

To get back to my main point, even though all these guys were from differing backgrounds, but uniformly English and white, they didn't found this country on their background or heritage. No, they borrowed liberally from what they understood to be best way to run a country, and forged this country anew out of whole cloth woven from the threads of the writings from the greatest thinkers throughout the ages (some of whom might have been Greek). That's why bigotry and race pride will always be fringe and foreign to us, as long as we have the courage to keep our principles pure. It is only when we allow ourselves to be torn down by class and envy, do we lessen ourselves and become, well, like the Modern Greeks.

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