Genes and being “so-called”

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader’s interwebs connection appears to be working intermittently. He has a call in to his service provider - but no ETA on a technician yet. This little situation annoys your Maximum Leader because yesterday he had a few different items about which he wanted to blog. Alas, he didn’t actually type them out and save them - and now that moment has passed and he doesn’t want to go back and re-think those ideas.

He did, on the other hand, decide to write a little something that seemed to spring from an interesting serendipity of items about Spain. Yesterday night, before the interwebs started acting up, your Maximum Leader read this peice about Sephardic Jews leaving their genetic imprint on Spanish men. According to the AP piece:

From the 15th century on, Spain’s Jews were mostly expelled or forced to convert, but today some 20 percent of Spanish men tested have Sephardic Jewish ancestry, and 11 percent can be traced to North Africa, a study has found.

“These values are surprisingly high,” the researchers wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Along with researchers from Britain’s University of Leicester and Wellcome Trust, the scientists analyzed DNA samples from 1,140 men in Spain, Portugal and the Balearic Islands and compared them to Moroccans, Algerians, and Sephardic Jews in Istanbul and Israel.

“The work shows that religious conversions and subsequent marriages between people of different lines had a significant impact on modern populations both in the Balearic Islands and in Portugal,” Elena Bosch of the University of Leicester said in a statement.

One of the most surprising findings is the percentage of Spanish genes whose origin can be traced to Sephardic Jews, although Spain had a relatively small Jewish population compared to its Moorish population.

Some of these genes may pre-date the Sephardic Jewish culture, the researchers said, noting that the Phoenicians also share some of the genetic characteristics.

Your Maximum Leader thought that this little bit of information was interesting to learn. Indeed, he was reminded of previous studies have found interesting genetic connections between people that one wouldn’t associate as being so close genetically. (To avoid the risk of citing something wrong, he is going to forego a discussion of some of the other studies that he seems to remember…)

The study of human genetics is a fascinating thing. It is amazing (and sometimes upsetting) to think of what we are learning and theorizing about our own nature due to our growing understanding of the human genome.

But, the AP peice started to upset your Maximum Leader… Not because of the genetics, but because of a little something else. Here is what set off your Maximum Leader: “The Moors invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711 and remained until defeated in battle by the so-called Catholic Monarchs in 1492.” “So-called?” That pissed your Maximum Leader off a little bit. Would you refer to Alexander of Macedonia as “the so-called Alexander the Great?” Would Tsar Ivan IV of Russia be “the so-called Ivan the Terrible?”

Anyone who knows anything about Spanish history knows that Ferdinand and Isabella are known to history as “The Catholic Monarchs.” Why would one throw that “so-called” in there? Is it just to be snide or is it to try and educate people? Sadly, it can’t be the educational option because Ferdinand and Isabella are never mentioned in the article. That “so-called” sticks in your Maximum Leader’s craw and he just can’t get past it.

Something else in this confluence of events… Your Maximum Leader, prior to reading the piece on the Sephardic Jewish genes, was thinking about the Catholic Monarchs. You may be asking yourself, “Self, why would my Maximum Leader be thinking about the Catholic Monarchs?” Well… He sat down and watched “Elizabeth the Golden Age” on his Tivo over the weekend. Your Maximum Leader wonders how he actually made it through the 2 hrs running time. Gawd what a waste of time and money. There were no redeming qualities to that film. Avoid it.

While watching the film you Maximum Leader got to thinking about Phillip II of Spain (the Great-Grandson of the Catholic Monarchs). At first he wondered if the actor portraying Phillip in the film had that weird little walk (small bowlegged steps) because Phillip was described to have walked that way - or if the very tight pants required him to walk that way. After a little contemplation, he decided it was likely neither of those choices but rather an attempt to characature Phillip as a sort of weird little religious fanatic with an odd gait.

Then your Maximum Leader started to think about the historical reputation of Phillip II, his father Charles V, and his Great-Grandparents Ferdinand and Isabella. Other than Isabella do any of them have a favorable reputation that isn’t significantly tainted by Protestant historicism? And frankly isn’t Isabella’s favorable reputation based on “financing” Columbus’ voyages?

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t believe that Phillip or Charles deserve their bad repuations if you try and look at them as actors in their times. Perhaps from a few hundred years (and secularized society) on we can scoff at their religious wars in Europe. But if one tries to insinuate your mind into their time their actions seem perfectly explainable.

Your Maximum Leader also didn’t realize, until pulling out a book and checking, that Phillip II was married 4 times. He could recall three wives (Mary I of England, Elizabeth of Valois and Anne of Austria - with Mary Tudor and Anne of Austria immediately coming to mind, Elizabeth took a little digging). But he didn’t know that before Mary I of England came Mary of Portugal. He should have known because he knew about Don Carlos of Spain, but he just thought that Don Carlos’ mother was Elizabeth of Valois.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader was thinking about the Catholic Monarchs when he read that piece on the AP and that little “so-called” line annoyed him.

If you would like to share your thoughts on Phillip II, Charles V, The Catholic Monarchs, or human genetics; please feel free to do so in the comments or emails.

Carry on.

6 Comments »
Fear and Loathing in Georgetown said:

“Elizabeth the Golden Age” was a terrible movie, and Phillip was a terrible ruler. It’s not his religious motivations that made him one, but that he largely squandered the wealth of the New World in ill-advised military actions because of his piety.



Robbo said:

Mrs. R is of Sephardic stock on her father’s side (and has a Spanish maiden name to boot).

I never saw ETGA. So far as I’m concerned, Glenda Jackson is THE screen embodiment of Elizabeth R and no one else need apply.



Mrs. Peperium said:


Robbo - It has been forever since I have seen Glenda Jackson as ER. I should look for it on DVD and revisit it. I did enjoy Helen Mirren’s stint as ER on HBO recently. Frankly, I enjoyed the first Cate Blanchett movie. But ETGA was awful.

Mrs P - Normally I don’t read Ruth Marcus. I happened to click though on that last article of hers in a moment of weakness. After following your link today I’ve decided to put her on my “to be dragged out and shot” list I keep for the beginning of the Mike World Order. (This list is not as severe as the “to be dragged out and shot and body left to bloat in the sun list.”)

FLG - What was Phillip going to do with the wealth of the New World if not fight his wars in Europe? He did build throughout Spain. But let us not kid ourselves, he wasn’t going to build highways, bridges, post offices and edifices to promote the common weal. He build palaces and forts across his empire. He promoted monasteries and Catholic schools. But what else was he going to do with the money? Honestly. Put yourself in his shoes and let me know. If I had the riches of the new world at my personal disposal, was more devout than I am, and was a (more or less) absolute monarch before the Enlightenment - what was I going to spend the riches on. Pretty much it is a war of conquest or a war of religion. I don’t think anyone was thinking infrastructure and public education in the 1580s.



Mrs. Peperium said:

Thank you Maxy. You restored my faith in you. Ruth is not ‘girly’ as she self-indentifies but ill. Seriously ill. Loved how she took a swipe by saying Andrew Cuomo should be swept aside and don’t mess with my family mumbo jumbo. Andrew learned the hard way to not mess with the Kennedy’s the day he caught his wife and mother of his kids, Kerry Kennedy, in bed in bed with one of his best friends.

That said, reading these two Ruth Marcus columns have done an enormous deed. They’ve placed Peggy Noonan and Kathleen Parker in their proper context - they’re ill too, just not as ill as the lib columnists so this is why conservative men flock to them…



Fear and Loathing in Georgetown said:

My issue isn’t that he fought wars. It’s that he fought too many.



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