I have the great good fortune to come from a family who was always involved on a personal level with helping people. My Dad entered the Army with a 6th grade education as an enlisted man, and managed to retire as an officer. For the rest of his life, he would be a blue collar worker in various fields. He made a decent living. We girls had everything we needed, and some stuff we didn’t, though we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted. We were also fortunate in the fact that our Mom did not have to work outside the home, so was always present for us all. She truly was the glue that held us together.

In spite of how hard my Dad worked to provide for his family, he was always quick to give of his time, sweat, and if need be, his home and his money, to help someone. Sometimes the people he helped were family; sometimes they were not. But if he and Mom saw someone in need and they had the resources to help, they would.

I guess growing up, I never really considered whether my folks were liberal or conservative; Republican or Democrat. I was a kid, so such things never crossed my mind.

We had the good fortune to be close to one of my Mom’s brothers and his family. They spent quite a bit of time on our family farm. The three youngest boys all lived with us for periods of time shortly after becoming adults. My Dad would often take them under his wing and help them find work while they lived with us. Most of the guys were like brothers to us, but there was one who was often mean with his comments to us girls. We pretty much just took it. For awhile.

This cousin lived with us for awhile after a very serious car accident. We waited on him hand and foot, as he was pretty busted up. I remember painting a Razorback on one of his casts and Rolling Stones lips on another, as he was a fan of both. In spite of his verbal abuse, I really wanted him to like me, and to be nice to me. I mean, I thought I was doing everything I could to make that happen. So one day, when my Aunt and Uncle came up to visit, they brought one of my cousin’s friends with them; a young woman. Sometime later, my cousin gave me a baggie of pot that he asked me to hide for him. It seems his friend had brought it for him, but he didn’t want to have it within his things, lest it be discovered. In my 16 year old people-pleasing frame of mind, I took it and hid it inside of a stuffed animal. It wasn’t until a day or two later that the gravity of what he had asked me to do was weighing heavily on my mind. My sisters and I didn’t do drugs or smoke pot. My conscience couldn’t take it anymore, so I told my younger sister what he had asked me to do. She encouraged me to tell Mom, so I did. Besides, my hiding his stash hadn’t made him any nicer to me. He was every bit as mean and nasty as he ever was.

My aunt and uncle were still visiting, as I recall, or maybe my uncle made a special trip back up to take care of business; I don’t remember. By that time, my cousin was up and walking pretty well and doing more for himself. I do remember my uncle taking his son for a walk. I don’t know what was said, but my cousin packed his stuff up and left with my uncle.

Over the next few years, my parents would help this same cousin again. They tried to create work for him with a small sawmill. My Dad decided to buy the land next door, and said cousin wanted to “buy in”, though in the end, he contributed very little. In spite of this fact, Mom and Dad carved out a couple of acres for him and his family, which by then consisted of his wife and two kids, and just let them have it. In the time that they lived there, our family helped them with numerous things.

So, in 2017, I find myself to have gotten over my drive to be a people pleaser. It has taken a long time to reach the conclusion that trying to please people has never gotten me anywhere. What has gotten me to where I am today; a post-graduate, first generation, college educated woman who makes a substantial income in a very rewarding field? Hard work, the ability to think for myself, the ability to use critical thought to try and enrich the world around me in order to do my best to try to leave it a little better than I found it. These are all skills that have been hard fought for and hard won.

So in a post-factual, Donald Trump America, apparently my opinion has no value any longer. At least according to my cousin. He has taken to spewing uninvited and unsolicited hate and vitriol on not only on both of my sisters’ social media, not only on mine, but on my Mom’s as well; the very person who allowed him into her home. The very same aunt who cooked for him, gave him clean sheets to sleep on at night and welcomed him as one of her own. The same liberal aunt who   did her very best to make him a part of our immediate family.

Now, allow me to digress for just a moment. Let me clarify that I am not talking about someone who approaches the issues with the attitude of engaging in an intelligent debate, respectfully listening, and being listened to. I am not talking about a person who can separate his feelings from the spirit of a debate, and give critically thought out, evidenced based support of his stance on the issues. Nope.

I am talking about a person who, instead, resorts to name calling, profanity, and when backed into a corner to substantiate his claims either says things like, “Delete me I don’t give a shit” or just goes missing all together.

My family, as far back as I can remember, has ALWAYS engaged in reasonable debate. My Mom and Dad, who had very few true fights, frequently had very lively debates between each other, often one of them playing devil’s advocate. In the end, they would usually end up laughing and they still kissed each other good night before bed.

Debate used to be something we Americans were good at. We might not always agree, but we could all agree to respect one another. We could agree to disagree. We could agree to keep things fair; to not call each other names or to direct profanity at one another. We could agree not to let outside forces affect our responses to each other. Because, in the end, that is really all we have control over. We can’t have much control over the state of our country, except through the exercise of our Constitutional rights. If others denigrate you for the exercise of those rights, ignore the abusive treatment. They also have the same rights. But what you do have control over is how you respond.

I choose to not be hateful. I choose to exercise my Constitutional rights, while being mindful that my rights do not infringe upon the rights of others. I choose to search for the truth, to look at the evidence with objective eyes and figure out for myself what is going on. I choose, above all, to be kind to others, even if my opinion is different from theirs.

To paraphrase my younger sister, the attitude that “you have to put up with bad treatment just because we’re family” is hogwash. You don’t have to put up with bad treatment; ESPECIALLY, not from family.

If my cousin were to show up at my door today, I would fix him a meal, put him up for the night and treat him with every kindness I would give to anyone, in the spirit of my Mom and Dad. Not to be a people pleaser, but because he is family, and it is the right thing to do.

 

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