I found my voice. It takes courage to speak your opinions, especially when some of them relate to members of your family. I found it liberating to speak out about injustices within my First Nation but then I was faced with a choice between speaking up and being rejected by certain family members or stay silent. I chose family. My voice went silent.
Social media platforms are great for casual and even virtual relationships. You can be my friend today and block me tomorrow because I said something you don’t like. I have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter friends all over the world who I will never meet but can have a connection on shared interest. And in the context of your real family these platforms can be wonderful ways to share news, pictures and messages. In my case, my family is enormous and there is no way I could keep in touch with everyone without these platforms.
Over the years, I’ve worked on myself to become more aware of how my behaviour affects others. Often I will not say something to a person about their actions unless I feel they can handle it. There has to be an understanding for them to hear what I have to say before they are able to hear it without overreacting or feel that they are being attacked. I admit, in the past I have misjudged some people and have paid for that by losing their respect, whether it was justified or not.
At our core, we all seek a meaningful and purposeful life. Something that gives us meaning as human beings. Our need for human connection is a basic need that began when we were children as part of a family. Our family relationships provided us a connection with others and shaped who we are.
It is true, you don’t pick your family. Instead you are born into a family. Being part of my family is a gift. You have no idea how very lucky we are to have a large family with diverse interests on so many levels.
Each family member has value and we all contribute to the dynamics of our family. However, family dynamics, we can agree, are complex and sometimes can be very complicated because of our underlying emotional baggage.
All things being equal, relationships take work, especially family relationships. It is not easy. Thus, it is even more important to keep the lines of communications open. I think to be an effective communicator one must become a master at communicating with all family members inspite of our differences. If you achieve a mastery level in family relationships you can successfully communicate with anyone. I guarantee it. LOL
At the same time social platforms undermine us by making it easier to cut off communications. Sometimes in the heat of an argument our default is to remove people on our social platforms and then take it to the next and final step, to block them. For those who are not familiar with the term "blocking" it means you cannot contact the person who cut you off on the internet. Often they also take the extra step to block your calls on their cellphone. Blocking someone, to be sure, can give you a feeling of empowerment. But the message is relationships, including family, are disposable. You are thrown away in a blink of an eye without a second thought. And this leaves the person blocked feeling helpless without an explanation of why they were blocked. It is a cowardly way to end a family relationship.
But of course you have that right. Particularly if you feel an individual is harming you in anyway and is devoid of any empathy or compassion towards you. By all means block away. That said, if your family member is not a deviant evil human being, in other words not a psychopath, then why not work on your disagreement. What is wrong with talking to that person? Just saying.
When you block a family member, you may not realize the ramifications of this action. I have been removed and blocked by family members. I interpreted it to mean that person no longer wants me in their life, and I interpret it to mean that I am no longer family. It is a pretty clear message.
This is the downside of mixing the disposable culture of social platforms with a real family. If I block a Facebook “friend” on Facebook I won’t have to live with the consequences of that person’s feelings. But when a family member blocks me, somebody whose blood and history I share, how am I supposed to feel?
Indeed, how do I feel and act when I continue to see a person who has blocked me at family functions? When I found myself at a family gathering, I felt awkward and didn't know how I was suppose to act. Do I say hi and shake their hand or do I ignore them? Of course, I shook their hand but it felt disingenuous. It is perplexing to say the least.
|Rose, Liz, Mary, Annie, Dora, and Mama.|
Initially I told myself that doesn’t really matter. But you know what, it matters to me! We will continue to see each other at family gatherings. Awkward, right? Furthermore, withholding family affection because of a disagreement is the worst kind of emotional blackmail and not to mention it is hurtful. What hurt the most is the family members who rejected me are people who found their purpose in standing up for environmental injustices, fighting against the colonial government on issues of Indigenous Rights but yet they feel justified in their position to reject a family member who stands for injustice of our membership against our own leadership's actions.
Frankly I find it ironic and it is the definition of intolerance. As a child of the First Nations Residential School System I feel that this intolerance and indifference from family is a step backwards. How can we talk about Truth and Reconciliation as a Nation if we have intolerance within our family and in our communities? It certainly is not part of our Indigenous culture and definitely not in line with our own Dene Laws.
At the end of the day, in this new world order, basically I see a disconnect between our actions on social platforms and being caring individuals. Understandably, it takes bravery to step out from behind social platforms and actually engage with one another as adults, instead of behaving like petulant children. Which is exactly what these platforms encourage us to be. I don’t like something you said, and so I am going to pretend you no longer exist.
I will always choose family over politics because family matters to me. We can choose torespond to family in whichever way we want, but your choice will determine how much you value being part of this family. I recognize we are individuals going through different things in our life and I respect your choices. To that end, I will never remove family members or block them from my life either on social platforms or in “real” life. That is my promise to my family.
|The younger generation is watching.|
The other side of it is this. If you don’t like something I say, please talk to me. Try to understand my side of it. If you don’t agree with me, fine. But don’t turn your back on me. Don’t ignore me when we see each other. I am a person, part of your family. I will always be there if you need me. I am not just a Facebook “friend.” Like it or not, we are family.