Other people's families
by Dave Winer Saturday, October 15, 2016

When you look inside other people's families what you see can be disturbing. But to the people inside the family, it's just normal, it's life as usual.

A story...

I once dated a woman, I'm not going to say her real name, so let's call her Beth. An attractive, smart woman. I met her at a workshop and we hit it off. We went out a few times and it became a relationship, if you know what I mean.

She invited me to spend the weekend at a house her family owned in the mountains north of San Francisco. She had two brothers, and that weekend they were there too. It was a large house.

Something weird was going on. The brothers were incredibly rude to her, and then after a bit it started to get physical. They would bump into her. Push her. Not exactly hitting her, but the contact was deliberate, and clearly not affectionate. They called her ugly names. 

Privately I asked her what was up. She said they had always been like that and I shouldn't worry about it. But I did! I wanted to say something to the men, hey Beth is a good person, stop fucking around. But there were two of them, and it wasn't my family and it didn't seem to bother her. So I didn't say or do anything.

We spent the weekend apart from them. We ate by ourselves. Went for hikes, went to a movie in town. 

But I never saw her the same way. I was aware this was happening to me, that something was shifting, and I tried to figure it out. The way her brothers treated her still disturbs me to this day. But to her, and presumably to them, it was normal family life. Each of them had their role to play. Her role was to be the outsider, part of the family, but not really.

I wonder where this behavior originated. Did their father have a sister who the family treated this way? Was the mother a sister of brothers who they pushed around? How does a family get to a place where this is normal?

I mention this now because I see friends trying to figure out Donald Trump. The answer is that we have no insight into what happened in the house he grew up in. What his relationship was like with his parents and siblings. We have little clues, but it's likely even DJT himself couldn't tell you much about it. He doesn't seem like the type of person who has done a lot of self-discovery and digging through his past. It seems as if he just accepted what was given to him as the normal way things are. 

September 2005: "Ask a fish to describe water. It can't because it doesn't know that water exists."