PHOTO- From 56 Years ago, before Mike (left) and myself were divided by religion, politics, social justice priorities - and just about everything else.
During the past year, I’ve waged two battles, one against prostate cancer, the other (more recently) against my youngest brother – formerly known to some blog readers as “Pastor Mike”. They may also recall that I intervened on this blog just over a year ago, after he received death threats by email (after posting a Facebook page calling for an “atheist registry”). See, e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/08/atheists-have-to-show-more-tolerance.html
I basically implored fellow atheists to back off from their death threats and extreme rhetoric, and suggested that this merely reduced us to Mike’s level of intolerance. As I put it:
“Take some time, fellow atheists, before you so cheaply discharge your feelings - intense though they may be- in such reckless ways. Yes, the guy is my brother - but this isn't about being overly protective to him as Mike can take care of himself. This is about we atheists showing a higher standard and having some ballast when we insist that Christian fundamentalism is fundamentally intolerant. Because when we fire off such emails as those above, we lose our base argument before it even begins to be made! Take some time, fellow atheists, before you so cheaply discharge your feelings - intense though they may be- in such reckless ways.
Yes, the guy is my brother - but this isn't about being overly protective to him as Mike can take care of himself. This is about we as atheists showing a higher standard and having some ballast when we insist that Christian fundamentalism is fundamentally intolerant. Because when we fire off such emails as those above, we lose our base argument before it even begins to be made!"
Now fast forward just over a half -year. Earlier this year, in fact. Mike and I had come to reasonable terms of mutual acceptance and began communicating by email once more (he lives in FLA). In late spring, he took ill and was laid up in the hospital (where he actually worked as a security guard) for several days, losing pay because Columbia/ HCA (Rick Scott’s old stomping ground) had taken over his earlier nonprofit place and reduced sick days for all employees. By late April, faced with missed pay and a car that didn’t work, as well as grocery bills piling up (as he noted via email), I gave him money to cover the expenses. I didn’t want to see a brother not be able to get to work because of lack of transport, nor see his family do without groceries.
He thanked me profusely and we continued our friendly ways keeping in touch about family issues, how his kids were doing (the oldest going off to Parris Island) and I let him know about how my prostate cancer biopsy had gone – with treatment needed ahead. He wished me the best and said he’d “pray for a recovery”. Things appeared to be on an even keel and it was gratifying especially as the male side of our family (4 brothers) had been estranged (relatively speaking) from the female side since my dad’s death three years ago- when a dispute erupted over his care. Indeed four letters to my mom and sister concerning my prostate cancer finding, treatment, and recovery have all gone unanswered. I have concluded that I likely won’t be able to ever call mom on the phone again – all calls pass through my sister’s phone no.- and my sister will ultimately determine if indeed I ever learn of her death (mom is 90).
Anyway, back to Mike. Things began to unravel, rapidly in fact, with the Republican convention and his firm support of Mitt Romney (he'd have actually embraced ANYONE who arose from the Reep debates against Obama - so badly has he wanted this black man gone) which combined with a vitriolic series of his own blog attacks on Obama. I myself kept my blog going with my own treatments of the Repugs, but not on any level of attack comparable to his. At some point in late August, after the Dem convention I noticed his own blog attacks weren’t merely generic but included more and more references to a “libo” socialist blogger (obviously me) – and heaping contempt and scorn on me, including that I'd "never worked a day at a real job in my life" and "had never served in the military". This to me crossed a line, not only of how we treated each other in our blogs (hitherto avoiding relatively personal ad hominem) also disclosing more than a little ingratitude. No one, certainly not me, expected him to limit his speech because I gave him some money – not a loan, btw- but I didn’t expect to have my hand bitten multiple times either by a human Rotweiller in Miramar, FL.
By late September, after my radiation therapy for prostate cancer, I’d had enough of his personally-linked anti-Obama blather and delivered a strong response using two images from his own blog: http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/09/what-will-anti-obama-whackos-do-after.html
The tipping point of ill will, however, was likely on Oct.31 when my middle brother phoned and asked if I’d seen Mike's latest blog and that he’d posted an image of a homeless guy with scraggly beard and tin can and the message: “Free food for all homeless people in Colorado Springs at ------- --------- ------ “ Giving my actual address. My wife saw it after we picked up the link and immediately grew livid, enraged in fact. I phoned him to speak to him directly, demanding he remove my address and asking him what the fucking hell had gone through his brain – but he hung up on me. The next step was to report the incident with a blog link to Blogger – and within 24 hrs. he’d first altered the actual address number to the street address, then finally removed the generic street reference.
The incident showed me several things: 1) Mike is incapable of change no matter what one does for him or how one helps him, 2) Mike displays a serious disconnect between his self-proclaimed “deep faith”, personal religious beliefs and how he actually conducts himself, especially to family. 3) Mike has obviously never liked me as brother or even as a friend, and the friendly pose displayed after giving him anything, or doing anything for him --- is just that, a pose, a temporary posture- but nothing firm or stable representing his actual character.
Of course, the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election and its result haven’t helped and the “Obama hater” I exposed two blogs ago is obviously him. That hate remains, as well as hatred for all those who had any hand in electing Obama – who he dismisses as “terrorists” – not even the “takers” term used by Fox n’ Friends.
So be it. I have waged a battle for months against cancer, and also more recently – against a bitter brother who can’t see beyond his own envy, though he will deny it to his dying day. Which is worse? I can’t say, but likely family battles, especially fueled by political polarization and religious hatred may always be more difficult. As I told my wife yesterday, looking back on our overall relationship since about 1976 - that had we been involved in the Civil War, he’d likely have worn the ‘Gray’ and me the “Blue” as we fought to kill each other. (600,000 were slain in that epic conflict, a good proportion brothers on each side.)
Perhaps, what our battle reflects is that unstated political Civil War that continues to rage in this country (exacerbated by personal animosty that may have been brewing decades- say between familiy members) even now. Hence it may well only feed on itself after Tuesday's election result. "Can't we all just get along?" to use the phrase memorialized by Rodney King after the 1992 LA Riots. Well, maybe not! To echo Chris Hayes' point, conflict is endemic because so much is at stake. I'd like in the end to believe THAT is why Mike's portrayals of Obama often go over the top and not racial bigotry.
Maybe when the new Spielberg film, 'LINCOLN', comes out next week we both need to see it. Obviously, it won't be together!