Famine is to Family as Murder is to Mother

Allen Sherman loved his mother. Her maiden name was Achtung. She was of Prussian ancestry, though she was loathe to admit it. She preferred to tell lies, claiming Scottish lineage on her mother’s side, with a direct line to nobility that predated the Viking invasions. No one believed her, of course, not even Allen Sherman. But he never confronted  Jameestaqueezia Sherman with his doubts about her heritage because there was no reason to do so. Not until rumors of a new cleansing started to circulate. But by then, Jameestaqueezia had manufactured enough fake genealogical evidence of her ancestry to make its denial highly suspect.

Allen tried to persuade her to stop the charade, even before the authorities began their inquiries. “Mother, something’s afoot. I’m afraid this anti-Scottish sentiment is getting out of hand. I’m concerned your assertions about your Scottish ancestry will get you in trouble.”

“Assertions? They’re not assertions. They’re statements of fact! And, anyway, this anti-Scottish nonsense will pass quickly. These things always do.”

“Not always, Mother. Look at what happened to the Argentinians. They rounded them up and put them in camps and deported them. It was just like World War II and the Japanese. Except it was worse. There’s not a soul of Argentinian ancestry in this entire country now.”

“Well, that was different. Scottish ancestry is not like Argentinian ancestry. With the likes of Perón and Videla in that country, it’s a wonder they didn’t deport them all much earlier.”

“Mother, that is such a bigoted attitude! And I’m serious about talking about your Scottish ancestry. If you keep up with your proclamations about how proud you are to have pre-Viking Scottish ancestors, they’re going to show up at the door one day and cart you off!”

Jameestaqueezia Sherman, nee Achtung, was having none of Allen’s fear-mongering. She continued to proudly announce her noble lineage to anyone who would listen. But two weeks after Allen’s entreaty, she responded to a knock at the door.

A tall uniformed man, his face dull and emotionless, stood at the door. “Are you Jameestaqueezia Sherman?”

“I am. Who wants to know?”

“I am Captain Enrique Squalor with the U.S. Genealogical Cleansing Service. I’m here to escort you to the deportation barge.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“We have evidence that you are of Scottish ancestry and, furthermore, that you have expressed pride in your scurrilous connection to that land whose only claim to fame is the Highland Potato Famine of the middle nineteenth century. You’re being taken to the Scottish deportation barge, which will be escorted to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and released.”

“There must be a mistake. My maiden name is Achtung. Actually, I am of Prussian stock.”

“That’s not what you’ve been telling your neighbors, Mrs. Sherman. And that’s not what the documents you’ve filed with the Orleans Parish Genealogical Authority say. Come with me.”

The Scottish deportation barge was a large, flat, open-air vessel with no railings. Sixty-four hundred eye-hooks, thick and  eighteen inches apart, were affixed to the deck. Jameestaqueezia and sixty-three hundred and ninety-nine other Scottish deportees, rounded up from as far away as Port Arthur, Texas and Springfield, Missouri, were chained to the eye-hooks. When the barge was fully loaded with its human cargo, an enormous tugboat pushed it away from dockside and steered it down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the open Gulf, the tug pulled around the front of the barge. Captain Enrique Squalor, aided by his newly-hired Lieutenant, Allen Sherman, attached thick cables to the barge. When the cables were firmly affixed, the Captain steered the monstrous tug southeast.

As the pair of vessels slipped around the southern coast of Florida a day and a half later, the coastline was visible in the distance. It was the last time the deportees would see land. Four days later, drenched with salt water and burned by the sun, the deportees watched Captain Squalor and his Lieutenant disconnect the cables.

“You’re just going to leave us out here?!” Jameestaqueezia, shouting at her son, shook her fist in his direction.

Allen Sherman stared at her and nodded.

“It takes guts, boy, to do your duty when it’s family.” Captain Squalor put his hand on Allen’s shoulder.

“If only she’d have stopped the charade of Scottish ancestry long ago, Captain, this whole thing could have been avoided.”

“Yeah, son, this could have been a much brighter day. But she made her bed. The lot of them did.”

Ten years later, almost to the day, both the Argentinian and the Scottish deportations were ruled unconstitutional. And a year after that, Captain Enrique Squalor and Lieutenant Allen Sherman were hanged after being convicted of sixty-four hundred counts of the crime of mass murder by neglect. The U.S. Attorney General had opted not to pursue charges against them for their subsequent involvement in the Peruvian and French deportations.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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