Monday, September 12, 2011


The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines family, in part, this way:

1 A group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head; or
2 a group of persons of common ancestry; or
3 a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation; or
4 a group of things related by common characteristics.

Any way you cut it, humans are all family. We all live under one roof. It's blue (from this side, anyway), and we do live under one head of household, whatever you call it--God, Fate, Allah, The Universe--no matter which you believe in, we each believe it covers all of us. We share a common ancestry, whether you're an evolution devotee or a creationist, there was at some point a first human. And, as little as it seems like it sometimes, we do share both common affiliation and characteristics--DNA, if nothing else.

Now, the implications of this may vary. Family means a lot of different stuff. For example,there are those people in your family who light up your life and make your day and are the cat's pajamas and all of that. The ones you'd both live for and die for, depending on what's required. They're the easy ones.

Then there's the family like my brother. He's been, for as long as I can remember, a human version of Eeyore. So gloomy he could have caused a bout of depression in Mother Teresa. Incredibly smart man, funny like you see only once or twice in a lifetime, and with a great heart, but truly, he's got a perennial black cloud, precisely his own size, that follows him and rains on any parade that might have the nerve to invade the neighborhood around him. I love him anyway. With family, sometimes you have to learn to accept the weirdness and just opt for love as the only rational way to deal with it.

Finally, there's family like one of my aunts. Her favorite thing in the world was to go to get-togethers and talk to one person long enough to get them to say something bad about one of the other family members and then to run, not walk, to that person and let 'slip' some incomplete aspect of the slander, usually in some manner that sounded like it might be a complement, or an offhanded comment, but it had fire in it. She always seemed like a pyromaniac with not a jug, but an atomizer, of gasoline and a match. She didn't pour on the accelerant. Just a spritz, enough to start a little whiff of explosiveness, and then she'd slip away. It might take hours, days, weeks or months for the fire to get going, but it usually did. God love her. But she was still family, and as long as there were family get-togethers, she was still there--still part of the scene. With family, at a minimum, you know you're stuck with them.

In the human family, we've got the same levels--from those who are easy to love to those who you know you're just stuck with. But, no matter how different from us we think they are, they are family, and most of them evoke a certain sympathy within me, particularly in times of trouble.

But lately, I've been noticing a disturbing trend of people reacting to the suffering of others in the family with anything from appalling apathy to even smug satisfaction. I'm beginning to wonder what kind of evil we've bred in this 'democratic experiment' we call America.

I recently heard a conversation of two people discussing the famines in the Africa. One of the people said "we" couldn't be sending money over there, because "we're broke." Seriously? We're talking about half a million human beings who will likely die of starvation in the next 6 months. And while I get that we've got budget issues, and unemployment, and dwindling 401(k)s, etc., etc., etc., most of our fat behinds are driving around in cars that cost twenty times the annual income of those people in Africa, parking our still-fat behinds in front of big screen TVs and computers and answering calls and texts on our smart phones while waiting for our supper to ding in the microwave. Heck, many of us pay as much in a month to a health club to get rid of the evidence we eat too damn much as it would cost to feed a family in Africa for a month. Seriously.

We may have problems. We may never again be able to afford too big houses with too much furniture and other crap, financed for us with no money down by the financial gurus to keep us fat, spoiled and happy enough to ignore the inequities of the system that keeps them fatter, more spoiled and happier yet. I, for one, think that's probably not a bad thing.  Even if it is a bad thing, to compare our issues with half a million people dying for lack of a bowl of rice and some powdered milk is self absorption made an art form.  We owe it to ourselves as humans to believe that humans--any and all humans--deserve a tiny modicum of dignity at least big enough to mean you don't have to sit by helplessly and watch as your children die from lack of food or water or from diseases that a few dollars would prevent or cure, while other people chow on frozen pizza til they're obese, just because of where in the world they happened to be born.   I might not like her much, but I wouldn't wish that even on my 'atomizer' aunt. 

Good grief people, this ain't no way to treat family.

No comments:

Post a Comment