Archive for July, 2012

On the Origins of Kork


2012
07.03

I’ve been thinking lately about my American-ness; who I am and why my ancestors came here.  I guess that’s what you get when you go on ancestry.com and see the places from which your ancestors came.  Don’t get on their site unless you can handle the truth of history.  It may make you change how you think of yourself.  Genealogy is not a sport for the weak.

When I first began my research I started to feel a little bit sad and depressed that I was not just one nationality; for example, I wanted to be like one of my best friends who is 100% Norwegian and whose family has been here, in the New World, for several generations.  I mean, as I dug into my genealogy I began to feel like some sort of a hodge-podge of peoples.  Many of my ancestors can be traced back to the 1790’s here in the States; in short, I am not a newbie or a pureblood.  I’ll get over it, but as you can tell, it has not been easy for me.

What am I, you ask?  Well, I am English, Irish, Scottish, and I think a little German.  Check back with me later in the year because I am planning on having one of those DNA tests done to figure out exactly who I am.  Those tests seem like some sort of strange voodoo to me, but if they can tell me that I came from a certain region of somewhere then maybe I will know who I am.

As I write this Blog post, I am touring the American West: Denver, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and soon, Mount Rushmore.  It doesn’t get much more American than that, does it?  Being here has increased my feelings of pride for this beautiful country and it has left me quite emotionally touched.  Some may say mentally touched, I don’t know.

Looking out over these rugged lands, these beautiful and dangerous mountains, I am comfortable in my air-conditioned mini-van.  I have food in the cooler and iced cold Coca Cola ready to quench my thirst, should I have one.  When I get to the Motel 6 someone will have “left the light on for me”.  No snooze in a covered wagon for me!   I have the Freedom to choose a Holiday Inn if the Motel 6 seems a little questionable, too bad the pioneers did not have such a luxury.  God Bless our freedoms!

The pioneers who came this way 168 years ago had none of the luxuries that I have to comfort me.  The only thing that they really had was a faith that everything would work out for them in the end.  That faith sustained them and helped them through conditions that we can only imagine.  I mean, can you wrap your mind around walking behind a covered wagon from St. Joseph, Missouri all the way to Sacramento, California in the blazing heat?  Heck, my kids get mad if I make them walk from the far side of the parking lot into Wal-Mart, for goodness sakes!

In addition to their faith that all would be well, the pioneers believed in the principle of self-reliance, that age-old idea that God helps those who help themselves.  Where has that sentiment gone?  Do we really take care of ourselves anymore, or do we rely on a government or a state to do it for us?  We have a safety net, even the most poor and destitute among us do.  The pioneers did not, yet they forged ahead.

If those folks got out into the middle of the prairie and were hit by a tornado, a fire or a massive snowstorm, it was up to them as to how they were going to muddle through it.  Often there was no use trying to “call” for help (Verizon service could only have been spotty at best in 1844) because there was no help to be had for hundreds of miles.  However, they had the independence and pluck to persevere.

The pioneer’s traits of self-reliance, independence and intestinal fortitude, otherwise known as chutzpah (check back with me to see if I find Jewish roots) are the qualities that I most admire; I’d like to believe they are traits that I possess.

Thinking of those pioneers, it’s no surprise then that it has slowly dawned on me that maybe I do know who I am after all.  This trip has helped me to understand that it won’t matter what the results of the DNA test are; in fact, on second thought I might not even take it at all.

What should have been obvious to me all along is that I am an American.   I have come to understand that no matter what my ancestors’ origins were, I have become, to the very depths of my being, an American.  I don’t really need to search for my identity in a foreign country. This is who I am and this is where I belong.

I am celebrating, on my most favorite holiday of the year, America and my blessed American-ness.

God Bless America on its 236th birthday!  May we always know who we are.