Pulling Together Rather Than Tearing Each Other Apart

June 27, 2018

I was the funny one.

That’s the sibling role I settled into at a young age. I was one of five children, and there was lots of jostling-about for bragging rights, so it was no easy task establishing my bonafides.

My big brother, the eldest, was the smart one, the leader, the pitch-perfect musician. My oldest sister, number-two on my parents’ hit parade, was the little mother — the caring, maternal one who put everyone else’s needs and preferences ahead of her own. My next sister, Hurley number three, was simply a perfectionist in every way possible — class valedictorian, a prodigy on the piano and many other superlatives associated with an over-achieving middle child jockeying for her fair share of attention. I was number four, so humor and storytelling became my forte. (The pickings were slim by the time I came along, particularly amid such formidable competition.) My baby brother threw all the balls in the air and carved a new niche entirely, distinguishing himself in science, invention, logic and fixing stuff really, really well.

I say all this not to brag (though, gosh, I’m so incredibly proud of my siblings) but to reminisce about the good old days — say, a generation ago — when people were recognized as complicated and nuanced individuals.

My family was no exception. Every household, every neighborhood, every community had its fair share of niche-claimers: the artsy one, the athletic one, the goofball, the life of the party, the cerebral introvert . . . the list went on and on.

And I guess we still do. But sadly — tragically, in my estimation — our society no longer seems to value these nuances as we once did. These days, we all seem to have been reduced to a single variable: whether we skew right or left on the political spectrum.

I know the stakes are high. I realize how strongly we all feel about bequeathing a better world to our children and grandchildren. I grasp how intensely we believe that the better angels are on our side and that those with whom we disagree politically are dangerously deluded.

But, God, I wish so much we still saw each other as individuals. I wish we could read a post on social media and think, “I disagree with her about taxes/health care/whatever, but gosh, she’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. And, OMG, have you tried her cheesecake?!?”

Or I wish we could think, “True, that neighbor has a sign in his yard supporting a candidate with whom I disagree, but did you know he volunteers every Saturday at the soup kitchen and mows the lawn of an elderly lady down the street?”

Yes, I have my political beliefs, just as we all do — but I want to be known first and foremost for my humanity, my idiosyncrasies and my talents, such as they are. I don’t want to be defined by how I pull the lever on election day.

Again — I know the stakes feel really, really high these days. And they are. We have a lot of important decisions to make in the months and years ahead, both individually and collectively. Our world has become too small to assume we can live in a bubble, and it’s our civic duty to make our voices heard.

But in the process, can we bear in mind the subtleties that make us all unique? Can we respect each other’s differences while not losing sight of our vast swaths of common ground? Can we concentrate on Joe Blow’s mad tennis skills rather than his musings about global warming? Can we pull together rather than tear each other apart?

I truly believe our future depends on it.

Best wishes,

The Funny One

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© 2019 Christine Hurley Deriso