Is it permissible to be proud of your American ancestors?

There’s an aspect of American patriotism that not all Americans share  — a long history of American ancestors.  For some reason people like Jonah Goldberg get their knickers in a knot over what they call “blood and soil patriotism.”   It reminds them of the Germans and their patriotism, which has proven to be a danger to themselves and others.  This is a false comparison.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Jonah’s blood is as red, white and blue as mine is.  I would no more question his devotion to our country than I would that of one of my personal heroes, Henry Kissinger.  Some immigrants, like the good Doctor, love this country on a more profound level than most of the native born.  It’s the zeal of a convert, the gratitude of a man who has escaped certain death, and finds himself in a land of freedom that few in this world enjoy.

My ancestor James Pettyjohn was born in Northampton County, Virginia in 1635.  I’m a 12th generation American.  Several of my direct ancestors were soldiers in the Revolutionary War.  One of them, William Pettyjohn, was a Delegate to the Virginia Assembly in 1786.  He wasn’t from the slave owning aristocracy, he was a yeoman farmer, the kind beloved by Thomas Jefferson.  I can’t prove it, yet,  but I’m sure he voted for the Resolution calling for the Annapolis Convention.  He would have also voted to send Washington, Madison and Mason, with four others, to the Philadelphia Convention.

I’m proud of that, but I don’t think that makes me a better American than anyone else.  But what does make me different is that I have hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of cousins in this country.   There are only five to ten thousand American Pettyjohns, all descended from  James and his wife, Isabel Heath.  But I’m not just a Pettyjohn, I’m a Heath, just like Sarah Heath Palin.  There’s a decent chance we’re cousins.  I’m also a Long, a Wilson, a Dodd, etc. etc.   Over the course of twelve generations Pettyjohns have married just about every common English surname you can think of.  And some of these people named Mitchell, or Wells, or Steel are my cousins.

And these people were prolific.  A family of eight was normal.  Thomas Jefferson Pettyjohn, one of the sons of Revolutionary War veteran John Pettyjohn, married his cousin Ruth Pettyjohn and they had thirteen.  He died before the seventh son was born, and he was named Thomas Jefferson Pettyjohn Jr.   He married Charity Wisbey, and they had twelve, including my great great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Petyjohn III.

These were the people who settled this country, from sea to shining sea.  Many of them never left the land.  They’re still there, in rural America.  They put Trump in the White House.  They are blood and soil patriots, but they don’t think they have any more right to this country than the people who came after them.  They married them, for the most part.  They didn’t care that Obama was black, or came from Kenya.  But they got the sense that he was more of a citizen of the world than he was an American, and they wanted something completely different.  And along came Trump.

I ran across all this ancestry on the internet about ten years ago.  I had no idea.  My Uncle Fritz told me Pettyjohn was an Irish name.  He said he was in London before the Normandy jump, and went to the Tower of London to research our name.  It went back to a pikeman, named Petit Jean, who fought alongside William the Conqueror.  As a reward for his services he was granted land in Scotland, which wasn’t worth much, since Scotland was unconquered at the time.

It was when Uncle Fritz told me this story that I started to wonder if all this stuff he’d been telling me could possibly be true.

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