Essay and drawing copyright 1995 by Barrie Maguire
This essay ran in the San Francisco Examiner and the Chicago Tribune in 1995, but I have updated it, to reflect the national nightmare going on in Washington DC this winter.

Polluting the Family

In my family, hate is turning brother against brother, uncle against nephew, parent against child.

Not hate for each other, thank God.

No, our hate is aimed at strangers. But it splashes back onto us like acid, burning our stomach linings, soiling our souls, sometimes even making a truthful "I love you" ring hollow.

Our arena of hatred is Politics. It would be funny if it didn't hurt so much.

In our family we hate Liberals...or Conservatives, depending on which family member is doing the hating.  We hate the National Rifle Association...or we hate the Brady Bill. We hate the inhabitants of Wall Street...or the inhabitants of the ghetto. We hate feminists...or we hate Christian Conservatives.   We hate Bob Barr...or we hate Barney Frank. We hate James Carville...or we hate Bill Bennett. And, of course, our most deeply-felt hatred we reserve for Satan himself: Bill Clinton...or Rush Limbaugh.

In my family there is a person who fights eviction notices for poor public housing tenants; there is a person who keeps a stack of Time and Newsweek magazines with little yellow tabs marking all the articles that ridicule Bill Clinton; there is a person who is a card-carrying member of N.O.W.; there is a person who waits almost eagerly, armed and ready, in defense of his home and family; there is a person who recently cursed at his 12-year-old nephew over capital punishment.

Maybe I should be grateful we're using words, not sticks and stones, but something's got to be done before the Balkanization of our family becomes permanent.

While I was berating myself for yelling at my little nephew (yes, that was me), I realized a surprising truth in this low-intensity family warfare: the deepest wounds are self-inflicted.

And no one in our family has damaged himself more than I have. Somehow, over the past few years, I've substituted Liberal or Conservative for Brother or Sister or Mother...or Nephew. I've used current political rhetoric to re-define people I've known and loved my whole life.

No more! I declare a unilateral cease-fire! Starting today, I'm rejoining my family. My entire family.  Blood is thicker than water.   Even Whitewater.


Barrie Maguire lives in Narberth, PA

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