Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh brother...

I've made allusions to some drama in my personal life over the last few weeks. I've had a falling out with my brother, which has taken me some time to process.

At first I was in shock at the confrontation, and was very hurt by it.

To preface this exchange, my father (who passed when I was 13) was in federal law enforcement, as is my brother currently.

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Then, as it settled in, I became deeply insulted, angry and disappointed.

Immediately after this exchange, I forwarded it to many of my girlfriends, wanting to know their opinions and their reading of the situation. I was overwhelmed. I needed help processing.

At the time I felt like a piece of shit, and they were quick to reinforce my underlying knowledge that I am in fact, not a piece of shit. I am the opposite. I'm pretty kind, and considerate and am trying to do my best.

The intentions my brother assigned to me were hurtful and disrespectful.

Here are some of my friends' reactions - which will allow me to address certain issues.
Calisse, c'est tellement disturbing. I'm sure you are really upset with this. If you want to talk about it, I'm here. It's such a violent interaction.
This little bit includes some French-Canadian swearing. I put this in Blue. It loosely translated to, "Holy shit, this is so disturbing." Her response to me validated my feelings of being attacked, and of his anger and seeming rage were palpable and unwarranted (in my opinion). Even if I was really angry, I would never be so hostile and mean-spirited.

whoa. i am really sorry. this clearly really triggered something for your brother. he obviously does not share the same world view as you about the prison system, and is basing his comments on his own lived experience and probably does not have emotional space (as a protection mechanism from what he experiences at work/has to put up walls to do what he does) to see your perspective.
i wonder if he will ever see your perspective given his own experiences and what he needs to get through his work day. 
he is clearly really upset and in the heat of the moment. it might be best to leave the situation alone for a bit for him to cool down.
I'm sorry that he is bringing your dad into it. that is not cool and he is clearly leveraging that as a way to guilt you into the action he wants. which is super shitty. I'm sorry. 
you are a good person and doing something that you believe in. unfortunately, your family might not believe in it, but that is their shit, not yours. in situation like this with my family i choose to not engage as a form of self preservation. 
i love you lots and am here for you.
I do not negate the fact that I know nothing of my brothers' experience. My main concern, above all else, is how approached me (assuming the worse), his language, and his general tone.

In the case of my above friend, she has a family that's not great. So I know where she comes from with her "not engaging" comment. Most of the initial comments I got were to let it cool off and take some time.

I think in most cases, my friends being really smart and well trained in people and intervention, in empathy and social justice, means we shared similar perspectives. Having said that, I don't know that I'm the participant in this altercation that needed the most help in processing this. Nevertheless, it's my nature.

It took several days and several conversations with friends to help me process it. I also spoke to my mom about it at different times. When it was fresh, and  days later when I had had some time to think about it.

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This was the conversation of the night of. Certain friends I spoke to first, knowing their familiarity with me and my family, or specifically of me.

When I re-read these texts, I can see my willingness to work things out in my head. Part of the subsequent conversations with my mother have been about my brother, how he handles stress and confrontation (poorly) and if he's at able to discuss what happened in a way that would be reflective and helpful to him. I don't know that he's able to do that.

We fall into excusing his behavior, "he's bad with his emotions," "he was too aggressive but he was really upset," and having now stepped back, I reject that. He's a grown ass man. He's my brother, and he shouldn't have come at me like that.

The crux of my disappointment is that he also didn't approach me with curiosity or a willingness to understand, he just attacked me. He could have disagreed with me, or even criticize my choices in a more respectful way.

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The lowest blow of all is referencing my father, more than once. He couldn't own his own anger so he dug up my dad to project shame and disappointment onto a bigger target. This is clearly his lashing out to hurt me.

I also made a point of saying I thought he was wrong. My father instilled in me a type of humanist philosophy. He challenged me and gave my philosophy books. I remember a conversation with him about the Oka Crisis, once that left me thinking he was sympathetic to the indigenous position and that he felt they had every right to their land and their protest.

My father was capable of nuance. He was able to hold two thoughts at once, and he nurtured and encouraged my pre-disposition to question everything.

My father is dead. He stopped growing and changing in October of 1997. I would like to think that had he lived, he would have been able to keep learning and growing, the way I aim to. If that were the case, his opinions and methods would have been subject to change.

I would like to think the same of my brother - but do not. Not today. He doesn't seem eager to better himself spiritually or intellectually. He doesn't seem to desire challenging himself in any way. He has his life, he has his priorities. And I have mine.

This fight also punctuated thoughts and fears I've had about him but have supressed. Namely his racism and sexism, and the way he speaks to his partner and children.

He no doubt has a lot of opinions about me and how I choose to live my life.

We're very different, and I don't entirely know how to move on from here. For now, it's been space. We haven't communicated.

I don't see my views or my personal moral code changing anytime soon. I still do not think I did anything wrong. I do not think I have anything to apologize for.

The disappointment that I feel in my brother about his assumptions about me and his approach to our discussion also extends to how I feel he's handled the days since.

We're in very different places, and other than my mother, I don't know what links us right now.

He doesn't feel like a brother, he feels like an antagonist.

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