Let’s focus on keeping our most important relationships strong

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.

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5 thoughts on “Let’s focus on keeping our most important relationships strong”

  1. I have admired your courage over the years to stand up for what is right. I know by reading the Idaho Press and Idaho Statesman that you have taken a lot of heat in recognizing the cancer which Trump has inflicted on our nation and to the Republican Party. As I read your article this morning and confrontation at your brother’s funeral I could identify with the same kind of abortion claim by those who claim to be a “pro life” Trump voter.

    I am a lifetime 73 year old practicing Catholic and served the Catholic Church for 19 years as a Catholic School Principal, Catholic School Superintendent of Schools and Human Resource Director. I continue to be very involved in my faith as a volunteer. Yet, I remember hearing after I voted in 2016, while listening to Catholic Radio, that my soul was in danger of eternal damnation unless I voted for Trump.

    However, I know the teachings of my faith and the supremacy of an informed conscience and now recognize that the priest who shared this opinion was possibly committing the sin of spiritual abuse. My response now is that I voted pro life which is why I voted for Joe Biden.

    I voted for leadership which would take the necessary steps to save Christ’s creation for the unborn and born;

    I voted for leadership which is capable of making critical national security decisions in a time when an incompetent move could result in nuclear annihilation;

    I vote for leadership which is not self serving and which will listen to experts during times of crisis resulting in the savings of thousands, perhaps millions, of lives born and unborn;

    I vote for leadership which welcomes those fleeing with their families to a nation which brings hope;

    I vote for leadership which reaches out to the disenfranchised and the poor;

    I vote for servant and empathetic leadership knowing that an extreme narcissist ultimately serves only himself;

    I voted for a practicing Catholic who lives the Beatitudes;

    I voted for Joe Biden knowing that the alternative of embracing evil in leadership never results in a greater good.

    Know that you are appreciated for your courage and for your service to our community and our state.

    God bless,

    Bob Fontaine

    1. Bob: Thanks for your eloquent comment. It brought tears to my eyes and gave me hope for a country where social justice is once more at the forefront of national policy. My best, Jim

  2. I didn’t respond to this article in a timely manner, but mentally carried your message around since it was published.

    “We never talked politics”, you wrote describing your close relationship with your brother. That is such a wise way of dealing with what is happening all around us.

    I have seen and felt the melting away of family and friendly relationships that have been occurring before and even after the election as a result of spoken political beliefs. It is very troubling to me that we are using politically colored lenses to view these same people so differently than we did before these divisive times.

    I have repeated your message to others and hope that it serves as a bandage until the wounds heal.

    Thanks Jim, keep up the good and thoughtful comments!

    My condolences on your brother’s death.

    1. Thanks for your comments and condolences, Warren. It is easy to lose sight of what is really important in these troubling, divisive times. Best wishes, Jim

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