Your RDA of Irony


At the risk of a lawsuit (or at least scandalous rumors), I must my confess my inadvertent muse:  Michael Rankin.  Michael is a fellow Jeopardy champion with a delightful sense of humor (so much for my monopoly there).  In the 14th century, he was also my older brother.  On his website,, Michael found and posted a rather obnoxious test for intelligence, offering it to his readers.  Of course, how I could resist? 

All of the questions were easy except one, a query that was not even part of the test:  state your ethnicity.  I know that I am not Samoan or Hispanic, but there were two choices that incited an internal debate.  Am I “White/Caucasian” or “Middle Eastern”?  I think that I am both.  Yes, Mel Gibson would begrudge me the Caucasian identity.  (On an episode of “South Park” Jews were identified as extra-terrestrials:  Jewpiter perhaps?)  Nevertheless, I am passably Caucasian; I have been mistaken for a Greek or even an unattractive Italian.   

However, I am also genetically Middle Eastern.  My ancestors lived along the Eastern Mediterrean where they transformed their phobias and idiosyncrasies into a theology.  They did not appreciate Roman imperialism–Western civilization ain’t much of a gift when it is imposed–and they demonstrated their ingratitude in repeated insurrections.  The Romans, however, did have an exit strategy for Judea;  the Jews would be doing the exiting.  Two thirds of the population had the “ultimate exit.”  Of the surviving fraction, many were expelled to Europe where no doubt we would assimilate and disappear.   

That was 18 centuries ago.  Even by Lou Dobbesian standards, 1800 years in Europe would qualify anyone for naturalization.  Yet, according to DNA studies of Ashkenazi Jews, our mitochondria still think that we are in Beersheba.  Two thousand years of inbreeding have kept the gene pool quite Semitic. 

So, how was I going to identify my ethnicity: “Caucasian” or “Middle Eastern”?  I would rather look like Jude Law than Yassir Arafat, but this was a question of accuracy rather than aesthetics, history vs. wishful thinking.  You know how I answered; and I am now humming “I Am the Sheik of Araby.”



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