Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Borgmann Family Blog: One Family's Attempt at Political Discourse

When my cousin Derrick Borgmann stood up in the Norfolk Country Club, in the fall of 2004, to offer his best man toast for my brother Aaron's wedding, something got cracked open in our family. Or something got cracked open in me: I realized I wasn't alone. This 6'7" Scandinavian -looking relative began with a typical comedic narrative around his relationship with my brother and the bride, poking fun at the two, and inspiring a room of sweet and knowing laughter. As he wound up his toast in a culminating blessing for the couple, we smiled and raised our glasses to drink to the newly married lovers. But then Derrick did this kicker-thing. In a room, (of what I perceived to be predominantly Christian, Catholic Conservative Republicans, that I'd been born and raised in, and that I assumed cousin Derrick was a proud and affiliated member of) he concluded his speech with a rousing finger or fist in the air and the words, "Go Kerry!"

I think the room was aghast. I know I was sorta shocked. "Kerry? 'Go Kerry'?" as in 'Go Kerry, John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, Kerry'?" This was Middle-America: Nebraska-farmer-Family Values-Offut-Air-Force-Base-
Bush-Territory-America. People here vote on two or three issues: what the farm subsidies consist of, how taxes will affect the wealthy and Warren Buffet; and if pro-life candidates might eventually overturn Roe V. Wade. (And we all remember the issues central to the campaign in 2004: the deepest Fear of Terrorism, and getting that bad, bad, bad man out of Iraq: Osama Bin Laden. I mean, Saddam Hussein... This meant a continued deep investment of our dollars in the military infrastructure and local training.) This is all my perception, right?

It's 2004. I live in Minnesota. I am a public school teacher at the time. I have just come back from South Africa. I am reeling with that experience of a country 10 years after Apartheid, and my first hand knowledge of what No Child Left Behind looks like implemented at North High School in Minneapolis. I am examining the roots of poverty and oppression and disease. I am spending significant time praying and breathing and contemplating God's call with a group of Visitation Nuns. I am staunchly Democratic and deeply invested in hope, in faith - in leadership that might shift the trajectory of this country, our presence and reputation in the world. I am completely behind the election of John Kerry. I am thinking I am alone in this desire in the midst of my outrageous and dynamic clan. I realize: I am not!

I think people clap. I think Derrick says, "Go Kerry!" and after the initial "wha?" (his own inspired "shock and awe") I think there is actual clapping. Because what happens, is the Democrats in the room find one another. It's like this mini pep-rally for change in the midst of this wedding reception.

I'm not sure any more of the details. I just know that after that fateful day, political discussions for me became a tad safer to be had with the Borgmanns. And this has made me very, very, very happy.

It's not been all comfort and ease, the ensuing political discourse. But it has been inspiring and educational. And for this former teacher and current contemplative being, there's nothing more satisfying than creating a safe space where people can crack open their convictions, unearth their assumptions, pose questions and take some risks in finding their voice and common ground.

Woohoo! This rocks my world.

Somewhere in the midst of all this talking and political upheaval, our evolving family dynamic and my own personal desire to stay really connected with these rocking people, (especially as we are dispersed beyond the borders of Nebraska): I began a family blog. An email list-serve, really. I was invested in something that might keep us linked, at least online and virtually, and discussing matters central to who we are.

In the course of the past year, this email list-serve has become known as the "Borgmann-Family-blog." And it has been a doozy of a place for the Democrats and Republicans in our family to converge.

We are a dynamic clan, not unlike any other family around the United States, or the globe. As the granddaughter of two sets of grandparents who had a total of 18 children, I will note that our clan is not small. There is a count or rough tally of 64 first cousins that gets tossed around. We live in not only Nebraska, but California, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Arizona, and presently: Libya. We are international and small town. We are catholic and no-longer catholic. Christian and athiest. We are gay and straight. We are predominantly pink-skinned, but partnered with other glorious shades of humanity. We are open-minded and narrow minded. We are funny and sometimes very sad. There is wealth, there is poverty. We have known awesome love-stories, and horrible divorces. Death and birth are as common here as they are in the seasons. Not unlike other families, there is abuse and neglect, addiction and dysfunction. But there is an overwhelming amount of faith and joy and love at the heart of us. We learn over and over again about communication and forgiveness. We sustain ourselves in a lot of riotous laughter. And in many small - and sometimes large- ways, this eeks out in the blog.

What follows is my attempt at sharing some of this electronic discourse. Here we are in the midst of another presidential election, where this is a collective and unified desire to see change in the United States. And here we have one family, not unlike millions of other families, who are trying to find their way and individually and communally discern how to cast their votes. I offer excerpts of this "blog" in upcoming posts, to inspire your own political discourse and possible family and friend musings.

Here's to dialogue and democracy, to family, friends, and the evolving way we communicate and see our desired homes and country's leadership into being!

Check out this blog site at QueenMab Contemplates for these postings. Or simply: STAY TUNED!



Sr. Karen Mohan said...

Delightful, dear Melissa ! and to think the Windsock Visitation made it to your family blog !!
love and peace,
S. Karen

Katie Borgmann said...

wow melissa, that was a great way to explain and introduce our borgmann clan.

you kick ass.
btw, derrick hooked us all up w/ tickets for Obama's speech. i sat w/
jim, mary, jack, and katie doyle. very inspiring and motivating first
week in denver.

love to all and happy labor day!

Anonymous said...


Really loving your blog site and all the things that are making me think and re-think. As a child of a family who NEVER talks about politics and has no clue whether her deceased parents were democrats or republicans (pretty safe bet they weren't independents) and practically gets run out of town by her siblings if she mentions politics - I find the exchange between your family members fascinating and refreshing not to mention inspirational.

Thank you and thank your family