Earlier this year, my wife and I visited the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City. In this impressive facility we received a small pad-like device that plugged into a data port attached to oversized wall screens. That evening I made a startling discovery perusing my ancestry through the “Where are Your Ancestors From?” display. I am one sixty-fourth Polynesian! I have a sixth great grandmother from the Pacific Islands. She apparently met and married a Dutch trader named Van Zandt and sailed back with him to New Jersey where his domestic port was located in the early 1700’s.
This unique little piece of heritage is amusing to my many Polynesian friends. Even a certain football coach at a local University got a chuckle out of this fact. This documented tidbit holds little persuasion to anyone that this suburban, middle-class white boy has any real connection to island heritage. But apparently, this does not stop some people from playing a game with similar claims to their own heritage. People like potential 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Warren’s claims to Native American heritage and her leveraging of that supposed heritage are well documented. When she taught at University of Pennsylvania and Harvard apparently she converted this scant relationship into something significant, as the Universities claimed she was the first minority professor or faculty of Native American descent to teach law there. She just recently completed a DNA test that shows she indeed does have a fraction of Native American DNA, although nowhere near the percentages needed to corroborate her embellishments and fabrications of a family history associated with Native American culture. This is a disturbing exploitation of spurious fact, a true deficit of character.
This would all be almost comical if Warren did not thrust this link to identity politics onto the national stage, insinuating that somehow this associated her to the supposedly oppressed minorities that Democrats so fondly love to cater to. President Trump called out this false political advantaging by giving Warren the epithet of Pocahontas. The mocking tone is not particularly cordial, but it carries the message to the listener with multi-layered force.
And that message is simple. Identity politics is a divisive and losing game, particularly in a melting pot like America. At a time when the country is being divided into tribalistic segments for political gain, claiming advantage and empathy through a fictional heritage is a despicable tactic. It is much Like Hillary Clinton (raised in the upper Midwest) feigning a southern accent whenever she campaigned in Dixiecrat states. Voters have to see through this nonsense and wonder at the lengths to which some will stoop to gain any perceived political advantage.
I think Trump should donate the million he promised to a charity to be named by Warren. He should accompany the donation with a note that reads “Congratulations on your one one-thousand percent, or whatever, Native American ancestry. Now maybe you can actually put that claim to good use for once. Signed, President Donald J. Trump.” Political theater at its best!
I am personally tickled that I have a trace of Polynesian ancestry, a small slice of a people and heritage that are so easy to love. I think I am equally thrilled to find out I may actually be a sixth cousin or so to the founders of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The wafting phrases of “Freebird” grace my memories from time to time. Either way, it is comforting trivia that is a tender footnote to an interesting pedigree, and not much else. If only it could be that simple for others.