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One Woman's Opinion

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We have met the enemy and he is us!

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.— Walt Kelly’s famous line from his comic strip “Pogo” . . . “We have met the enemy and he is us” . . . has turned out to be truer than previously thought. Not only are we our own worst enemy but we are actually made up of our ancestors’ enemies.

I found this out recently by going to to learn my DNA, the replicating material present in all living things. Scientists can study DNA and identify individuals with 99 percent accuracy out of millions of specimens. It’s really amazing.

So I spit in the plastic cup and sent it off with my payment of $79 to have it examined and within 4 weeks I heard what my DNA said about me. Was I shocked with the results!

Others who have had their DNA examined have also been “surprised.” Someone discovered her husband had some Somalian DNA. Another discovered some European Jewish DNA. Another who always thought he was Scottish turned out to be German.

I knew I descended from English ancestors who came to America in the 17th century on my mother’s side and the late 1800s on my father’s side. Mother had an ancestor who had been kidnapped as a child by Indians in Kentucky in the 1700s. My ancestor, Lt. Alexander Harrow, a Scotsman who was serving in the English Navy, who happened to see the child while visiting a local tribe in the Detroit area, purchased her for a gallon of rum. He sent Matilda Ellerman, who was then 14 years old, to a Catholic convent and married her when she turned 18.

Because of this family history, I imagined there might have been Native American blood somewhere in my line. As a child I played on the beaches of Lake Erie pretending I was an Indian girl living freely in the nearby woods and close to nature.

When I received my DNA reading it turned out I don’t have any Native American DNA. But I was in for a big surprise. I was English all right; at least 80 percent of my DNA, but the other 20 percent almost knocked me right off my feet. My DNA was 20 percent Scandinavian.

Where did Scandinavian DNA come from? Tracing my lineage back to the 1600s in England, there weren’t any Scandinavians in the family. So how is my DNA 20 percent Scandinavian?

The Vikings did it, that’s who, the ferocious mariners from the mainland who raided the English, Scottish and European coasts between 790 and circa 1000, “leaving” their DNA wherever they landed. They killed, raped, pillaged, enslaved natives and burned villages to the ground wherever they stopped. After the Vikings got through with my ancestors, it’s a wonder I have any English DNA left in me!

The poor native English, (Anglo-Saxons) were defeated again and again by island invaders. (Before the Vikings, the Romans had come into England and ruled the land.) But the Scandinavian DNA hit England once again in 1066 when the Normans (who also were descended from Vikings) defeated the natives at the Battle of Hastings. The Normans ruled the country taking land and condemning the native population to serfdom for many centuries, pumping even more Scandinavian DNA into the “English.”

Everyone’s history is similar. We are the offspring of fortunate survivors of extraordinarily vicious pasts . . . that’s why we should study history so that we never forget who we are and where we came from throughout the passing ages.

Our 200,000 years or so of human history of “modern man” has brought about many feats. But killing seems to be our greatest ability. If we didn’t kill, we tortured or enslaved each other again and again throughout all millennia.

I have thought for many years that human nature—our innate propensity for greed, envy, pride, rage, ambition, selfishness, etc., makes it almost impossible for man to live in peace with his neighbor. We all, in spite of our best intentions, often fall short when it comes to trying to improve behavior.

The comedy enters when one finally realizes every time our ancestral “tribe” was defeated, the “enemy” left its DNA calling card in those who managed to survive. Thus, we all who are alive today are descendants from survivors of past untold violence and, at the same time, are made up of our ancestors’ enemy DNA.

So why do humans continue fighting wars? Our DNA proves we are all literally brothers and sisters. Perhaps our interconnectedness through inherited DNA will finally wake us up to the realization we are really one big family and the killing will stop? Hope ever springs eternal!

So check out your DNA and see who defeated your ancestors. In the meantime, this is fair warning. Don’t ever fool with me, gentle readers, because… well, just check out my DNA! The Vikings still roam this Earth!


Correction: In last week’s column Thomas McKinney was said to be the first ordained Presbyterian minister in the Colonies. Google reports the name as Francis Makemie.

posted 10.11.2018

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