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DNA PROVES: WE’LL DO ANYBODY THAT WILL HOLD STILL

There’s a lot of DNA news lately. It seems that American wolves have dogs imported by Europeans to thank for their distinctive black coats. That will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever been around a male dog who hasn’t had the indignity of being “altered” or “neutered,” polite terms for having had their nuts cut off. Put it this way, they don’t call them dogs for nothing. And speaking of dogs, there was an item in the DNA science pages reporting that one in 400 people in this world are descended from Ghengis Khan. The creator of the largest empire in history, apparently this guy conquered a lot more than territory.

Not that Mr. Khan was exactly a celebrated romantic. He had dozens of wives and concubines and his Mongol hordes were noted for raping and pillaging their way from Mongolia through China, across the Steppes of Russia and right into the heart of Europe. He obviously did more than his share of the raping, being the head honcho and all. It was also customary to demand the daughters of the vanquished leaders as a tribute. Whatever the circumstances of his sexual encounters, the man’s DNA footprint lasted a lot longer than his empire, which pretty much died when he did. You have to figure that between planning his many military campaigns, administering his far-flung-empire and doing any female that would hold still long enough, the guy had to be the biggest overachiever in history.

And old Ghengis wasn’t alone in spreading his seed far and wide. Notable conquerers like the Romans, Persians, Macedonians, Huns, Vikings, Normans, the Muslim Caliphate, the Crusaders, the French, British, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and countless others got pretty busy with the locals and left their indelible DNA fingerprints everywhere they went. Non-conquerers got in on the act too, most notably the diaspora-prone Irish and Jews and the enslaved Africans who were imported to the New World in chains. There’s more than one kind of sword play and the nocturnal type seems to have been the more popular of the two. Warfare, conquest and subjugation aside, people just seem to like each other a hell of a lot on a one-on-one level.

And then there’s America, with perhaps the biggest DNA gumbo around, which makes sense in a nation whose calling card is welcoming immigrants of every stripe. Where else would you meet somebody named Mario McMillan, Helga Chang or Juan Washington? Australia, maybe, another gumbo nation, sort of a mini-America, populated by their own version of our wretched refuse. South America is also a pretty impressive laboratory of Indigenous, European, and African DNA. Even Europe is getting a little blurry these days with transient worker populations and emigres of all sorts, and of course fraternization is rampant. 

And all this has come to pass with a good many of us receiving training from childhood not to have anything to do with certain kinds of people, that they are evil or inferior or simply “different.” Curiosity being what it is, though, a whole lot of us seemed to want to find out for ourselves just how different they were. Nothing like field work to prove or disprove a theory. The results must have been inconclusive since there is still so much enthusiastic testing going on all over the world. The resulting DNA mix is breathtaking, and one of the stars of this whole trend is the new American President, Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan shepherd and a white American of various European heritage. Fifty years ago he might have been legally required to hate himself but now he’s the most famous and powerful man on the planet.

Also recently reported was the presence of cave man DNA in all modern humans, which goes a long way towards explaining our territorial instincts, that tendency to horn in on the next guy’s turf. And when the conquering is done with and things get sorted out to whatever new realties there are, well, what else is there to do but enjoy each other’s company in the most fun way we can think of? And in a lot of these cases of conquerer and conquered, in a few generations it’s hard to tell who’s who anymore. Does England know who’s an Anglo and who’s a Saxon? Was Czechoslovakia all that certain who was a Czech and who was a Slovak? What about Bosnia and Herzegovina? And in Italy, nobody has a clue who are the real Romans anymore, who imported so many slaves and had so many resident immigrants from their huge empire that they pretty much screwed each other into creating modern Italians.

So while scientists speculate about about the feasibility of cloning wooly mammoths from their DNA, the cave men that used to hunt these great beasts lives within us. Maybe that’s why we’re so excited about the DNA of mammoths and saber-toothed tigers and gigantic short-faced bears, there’s something inside us that remembers these animals. That could be why we also have a fascination with great empires, because they were our not-so-distant blood relatives. But even more exciting to us humans is mixing our DNA with other modern-day humans in the one act that our DNA compels us to perform, almost as urgent as eating and breathing, sometimes even more so. 

There hasn’t been an enemy throughout history that was so hated that someone didn’t say: “Yeah, I’d hit that!” There’s a reason why Europeans all look vaguely alike in spite of their many centuries of warfare and mutual enmity. They finally got the DNA memo and formed the European Union and created a common currency, the Euro, the better to pay for the affection of foreign ladies plying the world’s oldest profession without having the bothersome delay of figuring out exchange rates. Maybe scientists are right, that someday all humans will be a similar light beige color, but not for the reason they think, but simply because we love getting busy with one another. Evolution, shmevolution, it’s the wild thing that drives humanity. Sometimes it drives us nuts when all our pretenses of rationality and free will go up in smoke at the sight and touch of smooth flesh. We’re as hard-wired as our randy mutts sometimes.

So if the DNA science pages are any indication, the days of racists raising endless generations of racists are numbered. At a very slow pace, our curiosity and our urgent biological mandate to pass along our DNA to whoever will have us will solve our skin color problems. It might not solve our hatred problems, since we still manage to find a way to hate people that already look just like us, such as in the MIddle East and Northern Ireland to name but two of many instances, but it could be a start. And if space aliens ever show up to pay us a visit and they are humanoids, guess what our most common denominator will be? It won’t be ray guns, that’s for sure. Again, we might not like them as a race all that much, but that never stopped us from having each others’ babies before. Freddy Klingon, anyone? Viva, DNA!

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