Something happened at my brother’s funeral that brought home to me what a wonderful person he was and how lucky we were in today’s divisive atmosphere to have a relationship of mutual love and respect. A man came up to me at the gravesite to verbally attack me for writing in a newspaper op-ed that I’d be voting for Joe Biden. His preposterous claim was that I supported abortion simply because I supported Biden. We were standing within 10 feet of my brother’s remains in the cemetery and I responded that this was not the time or place to be discussing politics. That did not faze him, which caused me to use some strong language for his execrable actions.
How did we get to such a sorry state of affairs? As I thought about my departed brother, I cherished the relationship we’d had. I could not have asked for a better brother. Calvin was two years younger than me. He had bright orange hair and a sunny disposition to match. Calvin was good-hearted and kind. He had his own mind, a strong independent streak and a knack for fixing just about anything on the farm.
Calvin sustained life-threatening injuries in a 1984 auto accident that left its mark on him for the rest of his life, but he never let it stop him. Each time he suffered a health incident, he would bounce back and have a big Calvin smile the next time you saw him. He was a successful farmer/rancher and was well regarded in the community. He and his wife, Betty Jo, raised a fine crop of kids–all four of them are doing well in their lives. Calvin had strong moral values and lived his faith. He shed the earthly bonds and was laid to rest this October.
The disturbing incident with the fellow at the funeral service brought to mind the relationship of mutual love and respect between Calvin and me. We never talked politics. I had an idea how he might view political issues and candidates and I’m sure he knew from my newspaper columns where I stood, but we never felt a necessity to bring politics into our interactions. Neither of us wanted to raise issues that would tend to get in the way of a healthy relationship. Politics did not define, nor would it defile, our brotherly bond.
There are many families that have been torn apart in these last several poisonous years by conflicts over political figures and issues. It is an avoidable tragedy. There is no need to wave a political red flag in front of those we love, especially when it is unlikely to change their views. It is best to follow the wise old advice to avoid discussion of politics with those who we love and respect.
That does not mean that we should avoid political discussion in the public forum. That is the place for vigorous debate, but even there it should be civil and factual. Personal attacks on opposing participants rarely advance our cause.
I write this piece before knowing the outcome of the election. It is unlikely the caustic debate will cease when the outcome is known, but we should try to ratchet down the hostilities. Recriminations, gloating or grousing about the outcome, and similar conduct will not heal the wounds, either with our loved ones or our opponents. I will be focusing on what is important to me–the strength I’ve drawn from the loving and respectful relationship I had with my dear brother, Calvin– not some political candidate or issue that will soon fade from memory.