Bridging the Family Political Divide

With three brothers, I’m the only female in my family. Also the only democrat.

Back in the 80’s, my brother Mark served for a time as the Chairman of the Young Republican Club of New England. He’s not the most conservative, though. That would be Paul, who my father used to describe as being ‘somewhere to the right of Pat Robertson.’ My oldest brother Doug is also of the Republican persuasion, but is probably the least political in the family.

Our differences are reflected in some of our life choices and interests. Two of my brothers are accountants, and the other is a successful small business owner. I, on the other hand, am employed as a social worker in a nonprofit organization.

My brother Paul was aghast at the dumpy rent-controlled apartment I lived in outside Harvard Square (in the Republic of Cambridge) for several years. His Christmas cards from George Bush horrified me. He took target practice, I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity.

When we were younger, my brothers and I would occasionally goad each other by making provocative political comments. The purpose was probably more to vent old sibling resentments, and we succeeded only in strengthening our positions as rivals.

Over time, though, an unspoken truce developed, as we began to focus more on what we share than on the things that divide us. As is often the case with families, children became a great bridge; our shared devotion to my nieces and nephews continues to sustain us. Celebrating the birth of a grand-niece and nephew this year sweetened the glue that binds us together as family.

Politics aside, it’s clear we have more in common than we used to believe. A trait we all share is a keen and irreverent sense of humor, and an eye for the absurd. We are dancing fools, and weddings are a guaranteed blast as we tear up the dance floor all night with the twenty-somethings. Doug and I compare notes on movies and music, Paul and I discuss our latest nonfiction reads, and Mark and I share a real appreciation for visual art.

Maybe the fact that there are just four of us remaining of an original family of eight makes us inclined to avoid arguments that can only create strained distance. We’re survivors, after all, suffering more challenges than most in our youth, including the sudden deaths of two siblings in our teens. Coming from working class origins, we’ve earned post-graduate educations and become accomplished professionals. We each provide community service, whether through Rotary, PTO, or church leadership.

Getting older may mean we’re a little wiser, but maybe we’re too tired to waste energy trying to prove something to one another. We have plenty of friends and groups we can complain to about the sadly misguided other party. We can support our respective candidates, rally, and vote. But our party allegiances aren’t really what define us as individuals, and certainly not what make us family.

No doubt, we’re still baffled by each other’s political convictions. (how could someone so smart actually believe that crap?) There’s still an occasional Facebook comment or random tweet from one of us that reveals our political stripes, but they just pass by without comment.

When we get together for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I’m planning not to gloat over my candidates having won the election. My brothers are probably planning the same.

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2 Responses to Bridging the Family Political Divide

  1. This captures the family divide that so often happens. As a fellow non-profit person, I can relate even more to this post.

  2. monicles says:

    Despite its quirks and limitations, the non-profit world is where I feel most at home.

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