Friday, March 11, 2005

Domestic debates

Riverbend has written a very funny piece entitled “Chalabi for the Nobel Peace Prize”. It’s about political debate in Iraq, but I won’t spoil it for you; you have to go there yourself and read it.

On a personal level, her post reminded me of political debate between my father and my uncle when I was growing up. Whenever the family got together for a holiday meal, they went at each other, one provoking the other with some comment intended to gain an advantage. My father, usually on the defensive, would raise his voice – I’d say little by little, but in fact it was all at once – while my uncle calmly, but loudly, reeled off anecdotes and analogies to prove his point, whatever it was. The analogies usually had some compelling logic to them, which infuriated my father, never a particularly logical debater, even more. My uncle camped on his position, convinced of the rightness and righteousness of it. Needless to say, the debates dominated the dinner hour and no other discussion was possible.

I say this took place while I was growing up, but in fact, the debates continued well into my adulthood (and their old age). In the later years the arguments became vicious. Several times, my father and my uncle stopped talking to each other, made amends, then stopped again. The arguments really ended for good only with my father’s death two years ago, but in his last few years, they had hardly spoken to each other. In the family, the rest of us had always said that things would be saddest, not when they argued, but when they stopped arguing.

My mother was always searching for a way to defuse the arguments. She tried to find subjects my father and uncle could agree on, but these were rare. She also tried to make light of the issue from time to time, but her attempts at humor were waved off by the two serious men discussing the momentous issues of our time.

In her own personal relationships, she always found common ground with other people and focused on it. There were very few people in our family she ever broke with completely. Looking back, I think that was part of her legacy to me: keep the lines of communication open.

Now, if you haven’t read Riverbend’s post yet, click here.

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