While riding home from work, I heard an interview with a woman who was struggling with some of the decisions being made to change the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, also known as ObamaCare, still is a source of political contention.
I heard the woman say, “Yes, of course I voted for Trump.
“I’m a loyal Republican. But I wish the Republicans and the Democrats would think about the impact of changing the law because I have a son with special medical needs. As a family we can’t afford the changes they [the Republicans] are talking about.”
Yes, I know that no specifics were shared during the campaign about what it would mean to change ObamaCare. That is not what struck me as significant. Her comments took me down a different path.
Her words made me think about the power of her loyalty to the Republican Party which made it easy for her to know who to vote for as if it didn’t require any thinking on her part.*
I thought about how often in life we can be blindly loyal to ideologies and even parenting practices. Perhaps, because it is just easier not to have to think through implications, consequences or possible repercussions of those behaviors. And perhaps loyalties might be connected to the power of being brainwashed into certain beliefs.
I just finished reading a powerful novel by Judith Picoult called The Storyteller.
In it, she describes the processes used by the Secret Service to brainwash young boys as the agency trained them to be soldiers who tortured and murdered millions of Jews during World War II.
She also shared stories of Jewish families caught up in the horrific, unbelievably inhumane actions of those Nazi soldiers that lasted for several years until the Allied and Soviet forces stormed in to liberate prisoners in the concentration camps in 1945 and ‘46. While it was fiction, it was based on historical facts.
It seems incomprehensible that so many people could be convinced to participate in the insanity of an attempt to annihilate a whole race of people. How could so many soldiers (and perhaps their families) succumb to the Nazi party’s ideology and practices to torture and murder fellow human beings?
Moreover, how does that continue to happen even today in so many countries all across the world?
How does the potential to be blindly loyal happen?
I thought about the information I shared in the last two posts and the connection between that information and the forces of blind loyalty in our lives, including in the ways we parent.
In no way am I attempting to suggest that blind loyalty to what we have been taught about parenting should be equated with the horrific attempts of genocide perpetrated in Nazi Germany.
At the same time, I am wondering if the forces that allowed those beliefs and actions to take hold in an entire country can in some way be similar to what could take hold of parents as they decide how they will parent their children, perhaps without really putting thought into their decisions.
I remember being deeply struck when reading John Bradshaw’s book On the Family.
In it, Bradshaw hypothesized there could never have been a Nazi Germany without the massive use of parental harshness, bordering on brutality, that was so prevalent at the time. He theorized that the broad-based, accepted authoritarian parenting practices opened the door for young people to be easily swept into the beliefs and practices imposed on them by the SS.
I think it is extremely important for all of us to pause and consider if and how our parenting might be the result of blind loyalty to what has been indoctrinated within us.
The Storyteller describes horrific use of power through strategic processes, which created blind loyalties that turned potentially healthy young men into murderers which robbed them of their morality.
At a much lesser degree, I think we all have the capacity mindlessly to follow the beliefs and injunctions instilled in us as children, because we want to be loyal to our family’s beliefs. I hope this deep thinking invites you to process and consider your beliefs and loyalties.
Invitation to Reflect
- To what extent did my reflections resonate with you? In what ways?
- How important do you think it is that we are aware of the potential for blind loyalty in our parenting, and are intentional and mindful about the ways we parent?
- Are there any beliefs and practices in your parenting that you might want to re-examine and reconsider because they may be more about blind loyalty then carefully considered approaches that promote emotional and relational health in your children?
Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network
*Author’s Note: This is not intended to be a negative shot at the Republican Party as many Democrats also vote along party lines just because they are members of that party, and not because they have stopped to assess exactly what policies they are supporting through their votes.