Have you had trouble in social situations: family, so called “friends:” people being outright rude and nasty when it comes to differences we have? Well, this week’s Inspection may be a personal note… to whom I’d rather not say, other than “a relative.” But I’m guessing you might want to read it anyway. I suspect, no matter what your opinions, you may have been in a similar situation.
My purpose here is neither to embarrass you, Sir, or some form of comeuppance. I use this column as a platform for many things; including the quite personal. That’s been true since I wrote the first edition almost 40 years ago.
There’s a term we must start with, it’s called “guest.” Relative, friend or acquaintance, someone who visits is a “guest.” A guest who stays at someone else’s house needs to have some manners, as does the host. And there comes a time when manners are so poor it becomes the Wild West. That happened last Thanksgiving.
It was long in the offing. I suppose I could point to the time in the restaurant where, right after the stroke, your wife kindly offered to cut your steak for you. If I ever have a stroke I would hope Millie, my wife, would do the same. Instead of respecting her, appreciating her, and understanding the family was in a very public situation, you had a very loud, hard to understand, tantrum… a tantrum a four year old would be embarrassed to have. But… that was between you and your wife. Until now I have kept quiet. As per usual family fashion it was ignored, enabling your behavior.
But as I typed, “…that was between you, your family and your wife.”
Or maybe it was when your own son was muttering under his breath about something he didn’t like or didn’t want to do. He shouldn’t have been doing that, as I’m sure he knows. Working with kids I understand discipline. But the way you grabbed him by the ear and yanked him over to the other end of the house, bringing him to his mother? I’ve seen better, less overly dramatic, stage acts at an elementary school… you know the kind where the teacher/director is so upset they make them go back out and do it again in front of the whole school? Obviously an attempt to show your fatherly manhood that fell flat, at least for me.
Once again, “…between you, your family and your wife.”
For many years visits have become a constant commentary from one political perspective: really doesn’t matter which one though I’m sure regular readers can guess. I don’t come visit family to get in heated political debates, and by this time I realized if I ever did challenge you; no matter how politely, it would most likely end in insult and injury. Isn’t it amazing how one can be smart, yet eventually beat one’s head against a wall anyway? Walls are stubborn things, as we all can be from time to time. I usually avoid them. So I ignored the yearly lectures from your not so superior pedestal regarding how everything should, and must, be… and even the most out there comments. It’s your family, your house: I was the guest.
Last Thanksgiving was the grand finale. I’m not sure as of yet if I will ever risk attending another, even though it’s my family too. Every comment made about anything was politically or socially connected and led to a lecture, an all assuming, self congratulatory, comment. Then we hit the Civil War.
“OK, Ken, this happened 150 years ago. Maybe we can have a rational discussion here,” I say to myself.
The point: your point, was that the Civil War had “absolutely nothing to do with slavery until that (insert disparaging remark here) Emancipation Proclamation.” I gently brought up the fact that previous to Lincoln’s signing there may have been debates, discussions and arguments regarding slavery, which you agreed to.
I didn’t bring up the attempt to make sure slavery didn’t expand out west and how much many in the South fought that: elections fought over it…
…or that the VP of the Confederate States said if not for slavery there would have been no Civil War…
…or the economic situation that made slavery so crucial to the South…
…or John Brown…
…or the caning of an anti-slavery senator by another, pro-slavery, senator… pre proclamation…
…or the compromise we made regarding slavery in our own Constitution and experts who said we would have to settle the issue sooner or later…
Well I could keep going, but point made.
The odd thing here is if you had compromised ever so slightly and said it had little to do, or not much to do with it, I might have backed off from my extremely mild challenge to one self made King of answering all controversies. But I have had one too many racist southerners where I have lived since 78 make this same claim, punctuating it frequently with “nigger,” not to understand where it usually comes from, and what it often means. They still do it, they have just dropped the less than pc “n”-word.
Then when I told you couldn’t quite claim had absolutely “nothing” to do with it if they argued, debated and discussed slavery previous to the Proclamation, you called me an idiot. Oh, I know, you might claim you were quoting Glen Beck, Rachael Maddow or Bart Simpson, but we both know that’s not how it was meant, even if you claim you were.
To claim otherwise would, simply put, be lying.
Therefore confirming within far less than 5 minutes my previous suspicion that having an actual adult discussion regarding such things under these conditions was impossible. And since there is no reason I have to put up with such outright abusive behavior, I won’t.
I have been told you don’t remember all this. I find that hard to believe, but let’s say that’s true. I don’t find it any more comforting that someone who can be verbally abusive forgets it so quickly and easily: no matter what the reason. And let’s not forget my wife says she was told that you would, according to your wife, absolutely be apologizing. The quandary here is that, although that would have been the adult thing to do, I wouldn’t have believed it for a moment.. I’ve been around you long enough to know you’d be right back at it sooner rather than later. Just like you smile and shake a visitor’s hand on the way in and either avoid them, or lecture them about how everything should be, only minutes later?
I’ve also been told part of this behavior is due to a stroke. But a stroke should never be a mere excuse for, and a reason one must put up with, rudeness and abuse. I’m afraid, in this case, that’s mostly what this is. And a stroke wouldn’t account for you pushing and pushing these things: using every possible excuse to do so.
I can’t promise what we both want, that I never come back: not for weddings, funerals: nothing. For instance, if I find your being abusive to my other relatives that live with you I might have to. That’s not a threat. It’s what any sane person might have to do to protect those he cares for from someone whose idea of showing love apparently includes being abusive.
You do realize that folks smarter than us have been arguing these issues and not resolved them long before we were born, right?
Previous to our last visit I have been mostly silent about all this, but over the months since last Thanksgiving I have described my objections to your behavior, Sir, to friends, very few family members and a few business associates. I didn’t mention your name, just like I decided not to mention it here. I think I need to tell you what one said describing you and your behavior, once again, leaving out who. But I can’t just repeat it because I have been trying to keep this somewhat civil. But I will tell you the last word sometimes keeps company with “flaming,” and the second word starts with an “a.”
That’s the first time I’ve ever heard him say anything like that. If he were to continue in that manner, lecturing all, I might eventually define that as “rude” too, and tell him so. But no where near as rude as aiming one’s poisonous, partisan, name calling vitriol towards guests or family.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved