Are we still family?

The scene as I headed to the transport plane headed home from Antarctica with members of my “family” in February 2007.

Through a series of clicks on the computer this morning, I stumbled across an old column of mine, which, coincidentally, was published exactly eight years ago today on a now-abandoned site.

I titled it “We are family.” Initially, it was about the extended family of people who have worked in Antarctica, but I expanded that point to say, “Common bonds come in many forms.” You know, we share a lot in common with most people.

In today’s America, that seems less true. Or, perhaps, it’s that we now find ourselves emphasizing not what we have in common but what separates us.

That includes me, but I’m willing to defend my divisive nature of the past few years. I’m dropping and/or unfollowing friends because I cannot maintain relationships with people who support a president and a party who promote white supremacy, practice the objectification of women, persecute people of other religions while openly defiling the believes of the religion they claim to support … and so on.

It’s not just on my side. One of my best friends from the Ice, who was once one of the most vocal supporters of my writing, dropped me as a Facebook friend because he could not handle me pointing out truths such as those in the previous paragraph.

Are we doomed to widening chasms between people?

Quite possibly. In fact, I highly suspect those divisions will increase dramatically before we find ourselves coming together. No science or research behind that, just my feelings.

For example, I read something this morning on someone else’s Twitter account: “When I feel down about the direction this country is headed in, I remind myself that every generation is less conservative than the generation prior. We’ve made progress although it’s been painfully slow. Liberals are a flowing river. Moving water can slowly cut through rock…”

I sincerely believe the writer is correct, that more liberal philosophies will win out. That’s simple, really, because those values embrace people. Conservatives of recent years have done nothing but draw together in tighter, more restrictive, more hate-filled clusters.

So, the question is, are we still family?

I think so.

Consider how we, for the most part, banded together to help hurricane victims and those who suffered the wrath of California’s historic fires. When people are in trouble, most of us reach out regardless of differences in ethnicity, religion, even politics.

Will that continue to be the case, even as we’re growing further apart?

We are family

(Originally published Wednesday, February 23, 2011)

You have surely heard about the killer earthquake Tuesday in Christchurch, New Zealand. Media outlets in the U.S. have given the story some play over these first several hours, though that will likely die down rather quickly, particularly if things in Libya continue to deteriorate/accelerate.

I took more note of the quakes than some people for two reasons. One, I spent a few days tramping around the city four years ago and found it and its residents incredibly charming. On a more personal note, looking at the calendar, I knew there were likely members of the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) redeploying through Christchurch en route to vacations and homes as the summer season nears its end on the Ice.

Sure enough, it seems almost 400 were in New Zealand at the time and most of them would be in Christchurch. Rather quickly, information began flying between friends that so-and-so checked in and was OK, another couple had already left town in a rental car to visit other spots on the South Island, and so on.

Not wanting to insert myself into a tragic story and not really knowing how to explain my heightened interest, I initially refrained from posting anything. Then my Ice friend Atlas (who’s currently working in Iraq) relayed via Facebook a post by one of his friends that explained what I was feeling.

“The USAP is the ‘largest family’ that many of us have known,” he wrote. “We are all bonded through Antarctica – no matter if you have deployed or not, no matter if you are a full-timer or contract, NSF, PHI, etc. If you have been in 3 months or 35 years … We are family, and I’m hoping and praying for you all.”

That’s it, I thought. I’m more attuned because we have something in common. I served on the Ice only four months and that ended four years ago. However, the experience was such that I instantly have a link to others who have done the same.

Such links are not uncommon, however.

People feel tied to one another because they come from the same town, state or country, because they attended the same school. Anyone who served in the military can receive a knowing nod from another, even when separated by decades in service. Those who have served overseas in war zones have an even stronger brotherhood, I believe.

Common bonds come in many forms. An experienced parent comforts a new member of the order by offering encouragement and maybe a little advice. People who share similar health problems, from migraines to gout, instantly find a new level on which to communicate.

So far, I’ve heard of no USAP members among the dead or wounded, though it occurs to me I’m thinking the way we often do in times of trouble.

You know what I’m talking about. We hear of a disaster and think, “I hope nobody I know is involved.” It’s a natural reaction, I believe, but what does it mean? Is a victim less important if we don’t know him?

That’s not true, of course. We simply tend to protect our own feelings, knowing we’ll hurt more if we share a bond with a victim.

And then there’s the final, huge truth.

We do share bonds. With everyone. No matter our differences, we all have things in common.

We are family and we’re hoping and praying for you all.

One thought on “Are we still family?”

  1. ” One of my best friends from the Ice, who was once one of the most vocal supporters of my writing, dropped me as a Facebook friend because he could not handle me pointing out truths such as those in the previous paragraph.”

    This is happening to lots of people. I have a few friends who I’ve had to hide or drop because 1) they adore the Orange King and say he’s my president too (technically he is) but didn’t feel the same about Obama for, Reasons and 2) they really weren’t true friends in the ultimate scheme of things.

    I hope you don’t mind a link dump:

    You probably never even realized that your friend feels differently than you because in real life, you don’t connect over your differences, you connect over common ground. You aren’t friends with Fred from your Softball League because you respect that his stance on government spending, while vastly different than yours, is well thought out and articulated. You’re friends because he can field a double play, picks up the first round and played wingman for you that time.

    Liked by 1 person

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