If we all went back to “where we came from,” the 180 square miles around the Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa would be pretty darned packed full of people.
Because that’s the cradle of humankind, the place on Earth where the human genetic tree began.
It is, in essence, where we are all from.
Why raise this here?
Well, last Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump launched an attack on a group of Democratic congresswomen. He tweeted, in part, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The problem, of course, is that the comment is a thinly veiled racist attack: the congresswomen are all Americans, and came from the United States.
To go wildly off on a tangent here, the common saying that “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” has been in common use for far longer than Trump’s own family has been in the United States. It was first used in the U.S. in the William and Mary College Quarterly in 1710.
Trump’s grandfather, meanwhile, emigrated to the U.S. from Bavaria at the age of 16 in 1885. He tried to go back, but Bavarian authorities said he had dodged serving in the military (it’s not clear if bone spurs were involved), and he was forced to return to the U.S.
All of which means that Trump himself could just as easily be told to “go back” to where he came from by any number of people with even longer residence in the United States — with indigenous Americans leading the way.
It’s a response, sadly, that almost any difference can garner in a place that has a traditionally small numbers of immigrants. A different appearance or even a complicated long last name can bring questions, even in communities in our own Atlantic region.
To go wildly off on a tangent here, the common saying that “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” has been in common use for far longer than Trump’s own family has been in the United States.
“Where did you come from?” followed by, “Where are you from really?”
Sometimes the questions are followed by an uncomfortable pause and the answer, “Here.”
Other times, those being questioned might politely offer some crumbs about their family history.
The truth is, though, that the length of time that your family has been in one spot says little about ingenuity, inventiveness, passion or intelligence. It’s merely a function of geography.
If you start ranking worthiness by time spent in one place, after all, rocks would be worth more than anything else.
The fact is that human beings have always travelled, have always migrated — and sometimes, those migrations have been led by the bravest and most able to survive.
Citizenship doesn’t grow like the rings in trees, getting bigger and bigger with each passing year spent in the exact same place. It grows by involvement, integrity, caring, honesty and dedication.
It’s not where your family might have come from.
It’s what you’ve done.