Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Scintilla#13, Day 12

Family ties....that bind and sometimes gag us, sometimes liberate us. This is the prompt:

Those that went before us have walked paths that we may never fully understand. Talk about a time when you learned something important about your family history.

Today the Supreme Court began hearings on marriage equality. Crowds of people are outside the Supreme Court building, demonstrations are both online and in cities and towns, and polls indicate that the majority of citizens support gay marriage.

My parents would have agreed.

But some years ago there was a disturbance in the extended family force that touched on this issue and also on the actions and ethics of our then-president, George W. Bush. What came out of that changed my feelings about those family members, and I seldom hear from or see them, both by instance of geographical distance and by moral and ethical distance.

The details don't need to be completely exposed in this venue. One family member clearly outlined in a family letter his opposition to Bush's war and the intolerance of thought towards gay and lesbian rights. It was a strong letter, but well thought out and supported, and it was emotionally and intelligently written from the heart. He acknowledged that he knew there would be differences of opinion, but hoped there could at least be discussion.

At least two family members shut him off completely first with angry, insulting words, and then with complete silence. They did not respond to phone calls, to letters, to any gesture of reconciliation, and to my knowledge at the time of his death a few years later, had never again spoken to him other than to say 'Don't ever call or write me  again.' It weighed deeply on him, and he talked with my mother at length about it, and even to me, and, I suspect, to other sympathetic family.

But what I think it did mostly was to bring out years of unspoken resentment and anger, based on I don't know what exactly -- probably a lot of history I don't know about that stretches back decades --  and divide the family.

I am too liberal for most of that side of my family. So was he. So were my parents, truth be told, but they pretty much subscribed to the 'don't ask, don't tell' school of getting along with family members with whom you don't agree, in the interests of not rocking the boat.

While there is shared history with my extended family members, there are apparently few shared values or morals or ethics with many of them. I can dance politely on the unsteady surface for a few hours at rare family gatherings, but  not for long. And I can't forget how they treated their family member when he spoke his truth from his heart. 

"Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go by any rules. They're not like aches or wounds; they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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