I loved my father, and still love him even though he has been gone many years now. This doesn’t mean that I always agreed with or even got along with my father, however. The man was infuriating and stubborn as a mule that other mules would have found difficult to deal with.

He could say the most insightful things I have ever heard; and he could also say the most absolutely improbable things as well — often in the same breath. We disagreed often, and argued as frequently, but at the end of the day we were still family.

When my father died, my brother sort of stepped into that position. The reason for this is most likely simply that he is someone I also love, and also someone I don’t always agree with. Now don’t get me wrong; he is infuriating and stubborn as well, though perhaps not as much so as our father. But we disagree all the time — mainly because we both think we are the smart one, and I know he’s wrong. But again, at the end of the day, we are family.

Over the years I have also argued with my sisters and aunts, uncles and cousins as well. I don’t mean to, but, you know, I come from a stubborn family. Ask anyone. But hopefully, the pattern is becoming obvious here. I don’t think I am overly obnoxious (much), but there is just so much to disagree about after all. And my life would have been much easier if they would have all had the good sense to just shut up and agree with me. I know I am right, after all, so what is there to discuss?

Good question. The answer, of course, is that they all know they are right, too. They were all wondering why I was being stubborn and inflexible when the “facts” were right there in front of me. Why didn’t I just shut up and listen to “reason” instead of insisting that there was a better (my) answer? And I am sure that their lives would have been easier if I would have just given in — and quieter too, because I can get loud when I’m on a roll. Still, in spite of the fact that I am sure they wanted to, none of them resorted to hitting me in the head with a pipe (metaphorically, anyway) to shut me up. Why? Because at the end of the day, we are family.

Disagreements are inevitable, but the family has to endure; and it can’t endure when the individual members of the family insist on attacking one another with modern equivalents of torches and pitchforks like the mob in a classic Frankenstein movie. As I have followed the election coverage, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that we are dangerously close to just that. Actually, it’s far worse because at least the mob was attacking what they thought was a dangerous monster instead of each other. Now the question is, at the end of the day, will we still be family? And will there even be a family to belong to by the end of the year?

Scary stuff, by anyone’s definition. Venom is dripping from social media and the annoying memes that usually involve cats with spelling issues have become promises of dire retribution for anyone who disagrees with the person and their posts. We are making those with opposing views the face of, and authors of, our pain, and we lash out quickly and harshly with no regard other than we want what we want. We want everyone else to just shut up and listen to us because we know — with an absolute certainty — that we are right and they are wrong. And because we believe in our “rightness,” any means is justified by that end.

But we aren’t spitting venom at a monster. No, the dire threats are directed at our families, our friends, and our neighbors. And even though we might think of some of the members as we would the fourth cousin, twice removed, that we might not care much for, a country is all of those things. We can disagree, we can argue, and we can swear to anyone who might listen that we are the “smart” ones. But at the end of the day, we are all Americans. And it’s time to begin acting like it and put out the torches, and use the pitchforks on hay instead of each other.

Yes, my brother is annoying — and I’m sure to him the feeling is mutual. But where he stands on the things we argue about isn’t the point. The point is we can stand with each other, and help each other, without having to agree on everything or anything, or even be standing in the same place. And that’s a good thing because we seldom are. Besides, if I tolerate him long enough, he might realize that I was right all along.

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