Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brothers and Sisters

I am an only child. I don't feel bad about that - it has its advantages. But one thing that I clearly missed was the relationship among siblings.

I have seen that with Gena throughout our marriage. Her relationship with her brother and sister is something to which I cannot relate. I admire it. I am thrilled that she has it. These three siblings have a bind and a support system that is different in kind from mere friendship.

I have been reminded again of this sibling bond this weekend. Trey, my son, had a huge victory Saturday, being named First Chair in the All-Area Choir and securing his spot in the All-State Choir. When we got the news, his sisters set to work - unbidden by us - to make Trey's return home special. Carolyn baked, iced, and decorated a cake for him. Annessa made posters and signs all over the house: "This is where a winner parks."... "This is where a winner sleeps."... "This is where a winner brushes his teeth." ... etc. You get the idea.

Their love for each other is remarkable. It is palpable. They pick at each other and nag each other and irritate one another, and none of that matters. I admire their relationship. I am thrilled that they have it. While I love all of them and their mother deeply, their particular relationship with each other is one to which I cannot relate.

It is time for Americans to learn a lesson from the siblings around us. The idea of shooting 20 people at a "Congress on your corner" event is beyond my comprehension. I don't know what motivated Loughner. He apparently is deranged. Whether politics per se had anything to do with it or not, there is no escaping the fact that his apparent primary target was a congresswoman, that he killed a federal judge who had gone out on a limb making decisions that he felt were called for by the law, and that he chose a political event as the site for his assassination.

Over the past months, I have decried in this blog the disintegration of our political rhetoric. I wrote about it here , here, here, and here among other places.

We live in a free, open society. The American dream binds us all in ways that our politics should not be able to sever. It is not sappy uber-patriotism to say that we are all American brothers and sisters. Too many people have fought and died - and still fight and die - for us to live where we live and how we live for us to take it for granted. It is not easy, and it requires self-restraint; but we should be treasuring each other as a type of siblings. We should have the kind of relationship with each other that others in the world admire, even if they do not understand it.

I don't know why Jaren Lee Loughner opened fire. It is undoubtedly premature to attribute his actions to any particular political rhetoric, and I do not mean to do so here.

But yesterday's obscenity in Arizona is the opportunity for all of us to rethink how we approach our versions of "Congress on the corner." The enemy is not the other party, the "wrong" talk radio host, or the group marching this week in Washington. We are all a part of a pluralistic fabric that makes up a larger singular design, and we simply cannot continue in the spirit of political incivility that has infected us.

My college debate coach had some cheesy rules for our squad. Rule #1 was "Our knives are pointed outward." We were a team, and the coaches simply would not tolerate our taking potshots at one another. We had bigger fish to fry that required a collective effort. We were, in a real fashion, brothers and sisters.

I am not really an only child. You are my brothers and sisters. I do well to remember that.

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