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Monday, July 11, 2016

Past Lives Matter

The past isn't dead. It isn't even past.

— William Faulkner

My Irish heritage has always been a source of pride, as it is for 33.3 million other Americans. (For what it's worth, my genome shows I descend from an Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, a lordly lineage that makes me all the more proud.)

But being a "mick" ain't all glory.

It wasn't sixty years ago micks, like other groups, were considered untrustworthy outsiders, a distaste that vanished from our society only with the election—and killing—of John F. Kennedy.

I still remember offhand remarks made by adults that made the distaste clear to me.

When I conjure up the past lives of Irish-Americans, I picture tin miners and tunnel diggers; road workers and factory stiffs; Civil War soldiers and civil servants.

These people are part of me; I stand on their shoulders.

There are past lives that are a part of me which I haven't thought about.

My alma mater, Georgetown University, sold 272 of its slaves "down the river" in 1838. The slaves, who built the school, were sold out of necessity. The income$3.3 million in today's money—retired a debt that, if unpaid, would have meant the end to the institution.

I stand on their shoulders, too.

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