Thursday, November 22, 2018


Maurren Dowd has wriiten a Thanksgiving column that will be praised, and even wept over, by many readers. It's about her relationship with conservative members of her family, particularly the brothers who've appeared in many of her earlier columns.

One is no longer with us. He taught Maureen a lot about the world, and while some of it sounds to me like mansplaining, she misses him.
My older brother Michael taught me many things.

He taught me to hold vinyl records gingerly at the edges, so I wouldn’t smudge them, and how to wipe them down with a soft cloth before returning them to their sleeves....

Michael, 17 years older, taught me how to tie my shoes, scrub under my fingernails, parallel park, brew loose tea, play bridge and Scrabble, and how to differentiate between “nauseous” and “nauseated.” He taught me that Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco and Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans were the epitome of cool.

He could not teach me not to be terrified of roller coasters. But in everything else, I was an eager student.
But in the end they weren't as close.
... when George W. Bush was president, a chill entered the relationship. At family holiday dinners, Michael, a conservative like most of my family, would mock me about my critical columns on the Iraq invasion.

“If there was a hurricane, you’d blame it on W.,” he’d say.

And then there was, and I did.

When Michael died after a bout with pneumonia in 2007, I sat on my couch for days and grappled with how my job had hurt our relationship. I never wanted to go through that again.
Now she's at odds with her brother Kevin, a Trump voter who coached Brett Kavanaugh at Georgetown Prep and became his friend. She and Kevin disagree on Kavanaugh (and Trump), but decide to go ahead with a planned trip together to Monument Valley. They discuss the way politics can strain relationships, and this leads to a pronouncement from Kevin.
I told him that I worried about the estrangement I went through with Michael, but that I had to be honest in the column. I thanked him for not going on TV to burn me, like Laura Ingraham’s brother, or those six siblings of Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona who did ads during the midterms supporting his Democratic opponent.

“If you did an unfair hatchet job on him, I’d be very upset,” Kevin said of Kavanaugh. “But politics should not be the determining factor in your life, high up on your emotional scale. You should realize that family always is more important. I always used to teach my kids growing up, when they’d have fights, I said, ‘Just remember, when you really need somebody, the only one that’s going to be compelled to run toward you is your family, not your friends.’”
But that's not true for everyone. Think of the men who died in the AIDS epidemic, many of whom were abandoned by family, but not by friends. Think of Emily Scheck, a college runner we learned about this month whose family cut her off without a cent when they found out that she's gay, and who was nearly forced to give up the money she'd received through a GoFundMe campaign, until public pressure led to an NCAA ruling saying that she could keep the donated cash.

For that matter, think of Christine Blasey Ford, who, after she accused Brett Kavanaugh of assault, received only muted support from her family.

Kevin may believe that politics should not be "high up on your emotional scale," and may believe that "your friends" aren't as important as family, but he gets weepy when Kavanaugh is sworn in.
When we got back to the inn, with the desert monuments blazing red in the sunset, the Kavanaugh ceremonial swearing-in at the White House was starting. We sat down in front of the TV, next to each other and yet so far apart.

When Kavanaugh thanked his “amazing and fearless” friends, including those from the “coaching” world and his “tightknit Catholic community here in the D.C. area,” I looked over. A tear was running down Kevin’s cheek.
I don't know what happened between Maureen and Michael. She seems to blame herself -- "When Michael died after a bout with pneumonia in 2007, I sat on my couch for days and grappled with how my job had hurt our relationship." But she also says he mocked her for her columns. Who really caused the rift?

Family members will always be there for you -- except when they aren't. Some people will reject a child for being gay, or a sister for insufficient loyalty to Bushism. If you've done either of these things, I think you should rethink your value system.

And who has relied more on friends and tribal loyalties than Brett Kavanaugh? He's a product of the Georgetown Prep tribe and the Federalist Society tribe and the Republican tribe, as well as the “tightknit Catholic community here in the D.C. area,” which overlaps all three tribes. These tribes seem to be his true family.

I'm sorry that there was a chill in Maureen Dowd's relationship with her late brother. I'm sorrier that Emily Scheck has been disowned by her family. I'm sorry that many people will go to dinner today looking to pick fights with their relatives, and if you're on the receiving end of that kind of trolling, I don't blame you if you turn to friends instead for comfort.

Family is important. But it isn't everything.

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