Wherever you find a group of people with similar micro-cultures and struggles, whatever the demographic, you will find a brotherhood.
We find it in religions, the military, shared trauma and health issues and by country and state (ask any Texan). We see it in men, women, sisters, brothers and of course fathers and mothers.
Micro-cultures such as these (and sometimes macro ones) all have something in common: if you are not in the “club” then you just don’t know.
Without shared experiences, the micro-culture doesn’t exist and sometimes it’s difficult to value and envision the very experiences that set someone apart. Those significant commonalities tie hearts together and separate a group from an otherwise a generic human experience. If you’re not “in,” you don’t know.
If you’ve never had cancer and never been through chemo, there’s no way you truly understand what it’s like for someone who’s going through it now. If you’ve never lost a child, no matter how horrible it might seem to you, you don’t know the pain of someone who has. If you’ve never been abused, had an alcoholic parent or been hurt by a pathological liar, you can’t know the pain and the harm it causes. That last sub-group of abusers is especially insidious, because there are no watch-dog or support organizations to help the addicted or the abused. Just as a man cannot know what it’s like to have a monthly period, any more than a woman knows what it’s like to be kicked in the groin. You can try to equate it to something, but it’s never going to be like the real experience.
If you’ve never been discriminated against, for any reason, you can’t claim to understand what it’s like. Religiously, racially, sexually. They’re all different. If you’ve never been on the front line defending your country (or anyone for that matter), you have no idea what that’s like or what it takes. If you’ve never lost (or been born without) a body part, you can’t begin to know the battles someone who has faces every day.
It’s just the physical/logical reality of the way things are.
And that’s fine. It’s normal not to be infinite enough to know what all these experiences are like, inside and out. It’s normal that there’s a huge diversity of shared experiences and micro-cultures that differ. That’s where brotherhoods come to be. And I use that term loosely to cover sisterhoods and mixed-hoods too. (So no griping at me.)
But here’s the thing. As a part of any brotherhood, there’s an unspoken support code. Whatever one it is that you fall into: Are you loyal to it? I mean, because of all people, those who are “in the club” are supposed to know. You’re supposed to be empathetic.
This question occurred to me in particular when it comes to mothers.
There’s no doubt that motherhood (and parenthood) is a unique and challenging role in the human experience. No amount of research can prepare you for it and no one child is ever identical to another. But there are so many new experiences and challenges that come with motherhood – ones you can’t get any other way. And mother to mother, we know. Or at least we should. And that alone commands a powerful loyalty amongst comrades.
I think I’ll ponder on these things a little longer and write more tomorrow.