Wednesday, June 9

Our Roots Matter

How important are our family roots and what do we know about them?

A few months ago, an old friend who loves researching her family tree blogged about new program on NBC called "Who Do You Think You Are?" Each episode follows a celebrity like Sarah Jessica Parker and Spike Lee as they trace their family roots with genealogists and found amazing things. I was sad it wasn't available online at the time and was thrilled when I thought a new show being shown tonight on AFN (American Forces Network) was it, only to find out it wasn't - but I love this one we've got!

It's a newer PBS program called "Faces of America." Here's the blurb:
What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Harvard scholar turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans — professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her MajestyQueen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

What fun television!

Of course, it got me thinking of my own and Ryan's roots, but I've been reading Queen Noor of Jordan's autobiography and really enjoying it. I checked out some of the clips of her "Faces of America" interview online just now to get a better read on her because I am loving her book.

Her "Leap of Faith" book is fascinating! It has opened my eyes to Jordan's history which I've never really isolated from my study of the region, and the dynamics at work for the past century. It's a great read because it's told by an American who also deeply, proudly claims her Arab heritage as well. Queen Noor was born and raised in the US but in a chance meeting through her father, met and a few years later married a recently widowed King Hussein of Jordan in the early 197os. I thought I had a reasonable handle on the Arab perspectives, but this took it to a whole new level. And with US involvement in the region likely to continue forever, I think it's imperative to understand their viewpoints too.

Just a glimpse into Queen Noor's world: Imagine what it must be like to live in and help oversee Jordan where floods of refugees inundate your developing country with each crisis in the often volatile Middle East for the past 80 years or so. I mean really, there's a crisis annually of great proportion in that region! Now imagine the strain on scarce national resources for food, education, and healthcare to help those refugees who have no hope of returning home any time soon. Couple that with the fact your own fragile trade and commerce is being shocked or devastated by upheavals across your borders - Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria . . . Oh yeah, more than one of your neighboring countries amasses troops on your border now and then. You've got the quagmire of regional and big money Western relations all with their own agendas to desperately placate and work with to find solutions.

Let's not forget that your biggest refugee population that has overwhelmed your social infrastructure, the Palestinians, has some dark elements within who make assassination attempts on you and your family and plot to overthrow your government while you're working on their behalf with other world leaders to find a two state solution with Israel . . . Oh there's just so many interesting, amazing and difficult layers to Jordan's place in the Middle East! Reading this book sure has put the outcry in the US over immigration and security issues into a whole new perspective for me among other hot topics!

Now imagine if it was your husband trying to hold it all together in a delicate balance and you're newly married to him, starting and raising a family with lots of older step children to blend into the family dynamic, and you yourself are adjusting to a new language and culture that is now your own. Do you wear your tiara every day or not and how is it perceived at home and abroad?! Sheesh!

I'm glossing over so much here, but this area of the world is just not understood by most of us. The plight of the Palestinians has been on my mind with all the news over the Turkish aid flotilla incident. See, I'm so steeped in the nuances of the region that I couldn't even decide if I should write "incident" or "massacre" or what because it's so political. Have you seen a refugee camp before? I have seen a Palestinian one in person and read of refugee camps in other war torn countries. What if you felt compelled to live in squalor with little or no chance of opportunities for a better life in order to lay claim to the land of your family's roots, your very culture and identity? Would you be willing to die for it? Would you be willing to sacrifice your family's future for it? And that's just some Palestinian's side of it, Israelis have their own compelling reasons for being there for their own roots.

Until you walk in their shoes there, you can't say and I still don't feel I can. I met some truly wonderful, peace-loving people there and it made me wonder at my great fortune to be born when and where I was. Our roots matter and I'm grateful for my understanding of God's eternal plan for families to be connected beyond this life. We're all God's children, we have that greatest of all common roots.