Saturday, November 26, 2016

Family Mirrors the Nation

Thanksgiving begins a season of giving thanks. It is supposed to be a time of reflection, but most of us have little time to reflect, instead spending oodles of time cooking, cleaning, shopping, entertaining, and spending time with family…

The past two weeks hub and I visited both sons and their families. Amidst the tumult of kids, grandkids, extended family and feasting, we are recovering from my mother-in-law’s death in October. Hub was busy with funeral arrangements, emptying her apartment and closing the lose ends of her life so she – and we – can rest in peace.

Life does not always proceed as planned. A simple, chaos-free conclusion is not to be. We all hear stories about sibling fights during emotional times. The death of a parent often triggers ugliness, and we are living through such unpleasantness now.

The argument over one possession is causing dissension. Hub became so distraught following one heated phone conversation he almost ended up in the hospital emergency room.

This particular conflict is not about money, and it is not a singular event, but the culmination of years of sibling strife. Attempting to resolve the latest fracas, reaching back eons to King Solomon’s solution and offering to divide the item in two, a possibility, will not satisfy one party. It is all or nothing, the individual adamantly refusing to negotiate a compromise.

This season we are supposed to make an effort to bury disputes, at least temporarily, and come together. This year has been particularly challenging following a divisive political battle between two passionate sides unable to agree on anything, acting like two parties permanently divided by an extraordinarily messy divorce. In our family, and in our country.

A determination to dig in by one sibling has resulted in distress for other family members. The conflict will be resolved to no one’s complete satisfaction. There will be bad feelings and probably permanently severed family ties. Living through the turmoil, attempting to deal with the intransigence and bull-headedness, stirs feelings of despair when thinking about our nation’s current political situation.

Open-mindedness, a spirit of compromise and respect for adversaries are fundamental values of a successful democracy, ideals currently lacking in some family members, as well as too many of our nation’s leaders and their constituents.

I have no faith the rupture in our family can be healed, but I like to think our nation’s wounds will eventually heal. I have hope the younger generation will one day look at their elders (as many probably are doing already) and say, “what the f**k is happening?,” take over the reins and center the country’s wildly swinging pendulum (hopefully soon enough so I will live to see it!).

But just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, 
sooner or later, you've got to compromise. You've got to start making the 
compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.
- Colin Powell