Did you know that? Do you care? Probably not, unless you live in Boston.

A senator from Boston, with a name like Kerry? Of course he's Irish! At least that's what everyone thought, and—Boston politics being what they are—Kerry did not dispel the illusion. It was only when the Boston Globe hired a genealogist to look into Kerry's ancestry that it was revealed that he is not Irish at all, and that the Kerry name is only as old as his grandfather, who changed it from Kohn.

When the story broke, Kerry handled it well, pointing out that he had never actually claimed to be Irish, and took advantage of the opportunity to endear himself to another part of his constituency, proudly acknowledging his Jewish ancestors.

What difference does it make? Certainly none in this election. Boston voters can easily understand how someone might want to appear Irish, and as easily forgive him for the sake of his political views. Nonetheless, in a political culture that ferrets out, dissects, analyzes, and trumpets every insignificant detail of a candidate's history, proclaiming by word and action the triumph of trivia over larger truths—in such an atmostphere I'm astounded that I haven't heard more on the subject. I know about it because we lived in Massachusetts when the story broke, and it was a big event at the time.

Even Christianity Today, in an article on Kerry's eclectic religious background and beliefs, failed to mention the family's conversion to Catholicism, which surely must have played a part in the formation of his world view.

Merely asking the question is my own contribution to the trivialization of politics, but the silence still puzzles me.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 4:42 pm | Edit
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