God Does Love Ugly - Examining What Compels People To Remain Unloved & Bound By Family
Over the next two months, thousands of people will resent feeling coerced to suffer time with their family of origin. They will politely (or rudely) endure relatives who impolitely deny the essential essence of core of their identity. Abuse will be tolerated. Or it won't be tolerated; screaming matches will occur; and the family member with the least standing (youngest) will be made to feel guilty for breathing. This same abused member will be threatened with shunning, at the worst , or threats to their ongoing physical wellbeing in the form of food and shelter. Coping mechanisms will be triggered. There will be anxiety. Depression will follow. It's ugly.
And yet, so many people do it. I don't understand. I wonder why. So, of course, I turned to the dictionary. What is family? It had a whole lot of definitions, most of which deal with biology. But, the section that caught my eye read "also denoting the servants of a household or the retinue of a nobleman): from Latin familia ‘household servants, family’, from famulus ‘servant’" In other words, the retinue attached to one dominant person.
I began to think about that one dominant person. They say God don't like ugly. Why would God force someone to remain attached to one dominant person if that dominant person is abusive or harmful? And even though I am not Christian, the Bible to mind. It's command "Honor thy father and mother" addresses the household part of the dictionary definition of family. But, why? Where did that commandment come from?
In addition, lifelong learning is a family value. Growing up, we engaged in lively and polite debate. We cited our sources often. More importantly, we actively listened to each other. (Actually, my parents actively listened to me as a teenager and young adult. I didn't learn to actively listen until I became a parent.) There was an element of fairness. If you could present an orderly and logical explanation of your reality, they would agree to honor it. Any cogent presentation of one's personal facts are at minimum entertained; and at the most, examined in a rigorous and collegiate manner. Sometimes, we agree to disagree. I had been taught that respect is reciprocal. It's that simple.
Every young adult struggles with the process of individuation. I have to admit, my process of individuation was loud, ugly and marred by a very bad case of White-Girl-Syndrome*. Regardless, my parents stood by me, never once becoming violent, abusive or threatening my physical wellbeing in the form of food and shelter. My father had so much patience and wisdom. He was like a storm chaser to my hurricane. I think it was because he integrated a Quaker boarding school in the 1940's. He knew what White girls looked and sounded like and he was unafraid. This is actually one of the favorite stories he tells.
"It wasn't until I went away to boarding school that I ever heard someone say, 'I hate my parents.' I was shocked. Absolutely shocked. I couldn't imagine anyone ever thinking such a thing about their parents. . I thought, how could you hate your parents? What evil could a parent do to make one hate them? Surely parents are difficult. Certainly they can foil your plans. But, hate them? The idea never crossed my mind that a child could do such a thing." ~ Eric W. Springer
The very structure of family is a top down hierarchy in which respect is not reciprocal. Any belief that it is responsibility of the individual to return to situations which cause them harm or to maintain order for the sake of order under the subjugation of a dominant person (usually a man) is flawed. The way we have done things is not, nor will it ever be, a reason to justify wrong.
I'll be returning to this line of thinking over the next few months. There is so much to unpack. Next up, how do we find ways to create Kinship Circles rather than families.
* White-Girl-Syndrome was unheard of when I was a teenager. Probably because it didn't emerge until desegregation. It happens mostly to Black girls who have been assimilated into (typically) elite White environments. This syndrome is usually inflamed and made worse by the additional pressures of Respectability Politics. (Hood Feminism's The Politics of Respectability is not Revolutionary. is a good read on this subject.) In adolescence, children with White Girl Syndrome mimic the disrespectful attitudes White children exhibit towards elders and there is no system of measurement large enough to communicate their sense of entitlement. They also blame their parents for making their lives miserable based upon the failure to deliver material goods or services. They tantrum even though they, unlike White girls, will get their asses whooped at which point they will catalog and refer to it as child abuse.