In less than 24 hours I’ll be heading back to that other place I call home and a long and eagerly awaited reunion with my wife, and in steps and stages the rest of our family starting with Darling Daughter 1 and culminating in a September wedding for Darling Daughter 2 and, thank you vaccines, a full on family celebration. It got me thinking again about family and how it is the first and most significant way we start to live a life that doesn’t begin and end as an isolated “me” against the world.
Starting with the core 5 of us, what I’m also referencing is the family I came from…My Mom’s especially, but Dad’s as well, though sadly with so many gone, current extensions are less far reaching than hers. There are a lot of us, 53 or so at current count… now 4 generations. Like in most extended families, at ours, once you get to sit at “the grown-up’s table” your voice is worth no more or no less than anyone else’s. Whereas businesses are about hierarchies families are about mutuality; so despite whatever my achievements, I’m just another voice around the table… and when it comes to politics I’m in the minority.
My Mom and Dad were both staunchly Republican and their siblings remain as committed as they were in their time with us. The core values of self-reliance, personal responsibility and a fundamental distrust of big government and the costs both in tax dollars and restrictions on personal freedom are their key principles. But at the root of the family allegiance to the GOP are things much more practical - who was in power in their neighborhoods when they were desperate for jobs back in the ‘20s & ‘30’s when my grandparents were trying to survive and raise a family, and in their little corner of Manhattan it was the Republicans who helped.
Some in my generation have split from this orthodoxy but our numbers are smaller. Nevertheless, when we get to the dinner table or the family Zoom, what connects us to one another is so much more powerful than our differences…even those from this past election cycle. Our bonds of love are not only about caring for each other but also for the generations that will carry on when we have passed away. We have shared celebrations of the beginnings and the ends of life and we know all too well how fleeting our time together really is in the measure of eternity…So we do what we can to keep our differences in perspective and carry on with the business of loving one another. And when we do discuss politics and our differences, I really believe that it is out of our deep concerns about the impact that the decisions we make will have on our children and theirs.
When we start from that common ground and those shared goals, we begin to find ways to bridge our different paths and actually articulate ways that involve the necessary compromises to a take that first or the next step to reach an understanding. From this side of the world, as I read and worry about just how badly fractured and divided our country has become and I grope for hopeful paths away from the brink, this is the one that offers me the most hope…That if we start at this level of connection, with these deeply rooted bonds of love and affection, we can at least try to begin to understand one another and slowly, carefully find a shared way forward one careful step at a time. And then again Paul Gosar and Adam Kinzinger’s families among many others show just how hard it can be to even get that far.
So, I will come home with hope…that we can not only do better but as importantly help each other to do so, out of love for one another, and of country and the need to work together to create a more hopeful present and future for ourselves and our families.