43. When Family Drama Becomes Public Trauma

We are all influenced and shaped by our families, who are the people that as children we interact with the most. As we grow up, we often absorb and adopt some of the attitudes, views, and behaviors of our parents, our siblings, and other family members.

I’m no psychologist, so my ideas on this are based strictly on my observations. But I’m starting to see that we must examine our own attitudes, views, and behaviors and ask ourselves how valid they are and what purpose they serve. Do they really reflect who we are or who we want to be? Or do they hold us back and prevent us from becoming better human beings or just enjoying our lives? Perhaps more important, are we creating needless friction and pain by trying to impose our adopted, unexamined views and ways on others?

A simple example: my father never allowed salt to be added to food that was already on a plate. I have carried that with me all my life, which is why I try to make sure to add enough salt as food is cooking. It drives me crazy to see my wife with the salt shaker in hand at the dinner table when something on her plate tastes bland (even to me). She always challenges me when I object, and I have sometimes replied, “that’s the way my father did it.” Her reply? “That doesn’t make it right or logical.”

Ever since the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, I’ve been thinking about how family dynamics can spill over and wreak havoc in public.

The younger Tsarnaev brother worked with his older brother in pulling off the bombings, and they both may have participated in a triple homicide years earlier.

By all appearances, the younger brother led a “normal” life in the U.S. He had friends, attended university, loved sports and hip-hop music, and even became a U.S. citizen. His father reportedly did not favor extremism.

So what sway did the older brother have on the younger one to set off on a path of evil and destruction? Did the younger one follow the older one’s lead because he admired him so much that he had to emulate him? (By some accounts, the younger brother followed the older one around “like a puppy dog.”) Or did the older one shame or browbeat the younger one into submission?

And why did the murdered campus police officer, the three people killed and the hundreds of others injured in the explosion, the wounded police officers, and the frightened residents of Boston have to suffer the consequences of the skewed dynamics of the Tsarnaev brothers? And did the younger brother run over the older brother with the vehicle out of anger or as part of an agreement?

The United States did not change its foreign policy as a result of the bombing attacks by the brothers, so why in the world did anyone outside their family have to suffer the consequences of their very personal dynamics?

The United States again is suffering – on a larger scale – from the spillover of damaged family dynamics. Now, post-election, we the public have had to put up with the antics of a man that are the after-effects of his relationship with his father. From what I’ve read, that father was a cold-hearted fish who cared about money and power above all else, did not show affection to his four children, played favorites with the one most eager to emulate him, and denigrated the oldest son as weak and unworthy because he did not worship at the altar of Money.

For the old man it was intolerable to lose and be seen as a loser.

As unsuccessful as that guy in the White House has been as a business man, a leader, and a father himself, he now faces the reality that he has lost the election, which renders him a “loser.” It must be eating him alive, particularly because he is a “loser” on the world stage.

So, he largely ignores his duties as President during a pandemic that is spinning out of control and as millions of U.S. residents and small businesses await financial lifelines. As he flops around like a fish yanked out of the sea, his minions scramble to soothe the baby in him with fairy-tale scenarios of how he can overcome the will of the vast majority of voters and hold on to the White House.

Sadly, he has never shown himself to be a deep thinker, even about his own life. He does not realize how damaged he is as a result of his toxic family dynamics.

Regardless, as someone recently dared to admonish him (in an American phrase that I find very amusing and apt), “It’s time to put on your big boy pants.”

Brothers strolling in Assisi – Italia courtesy of “Mrs. Anton”

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