It is the sincere drive of brotherhood and sisterhood that makes being a human being so joyful and beautiful. In my opinion, the feelings we have of being related to each other are instinctive. We are taught to be wary of others either by authority figures or from our mistreatment by others. Our feelings of alienation and misanthropy become ingrained and then passed along to other people. These bad experiences and reactions have caused the competitive, agressive, mean parts of us to manifest destructively in the world.
There are people and institutions that exist, in part, to contradict the effects and conditioning that lead us to conflict and selfishness. Instead of exploiting our base, self-centered drives, the more uplifting people work to enhance our instincts of relatedness.
The question of our relationship to one another is really like siblinghood. If you grew up with a sister or a brother, you felt a primal, familial bond with that person. You also might have experienced sibling rivalry. Brothers and sisters have complicated relationships. Our siblings might be the people we love to hate but hate to love. However, when push comes to shove, we realize that love is the bond that heals our competitiveness.
This week has been set aside as Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week. If we choose to commemorate the occasion, it is a beautiful opportunity to contemplate our place in human society and how we can enhance the positive aspects of interrelationship. I suggest placing a reminder for each day this week on your calendar or planner about brotherhood and sisterhood. Otherwise, it’s easy to simply read something like this blog post, acknowledge it, then conveniently forget about it.
This week is a good time to engage your mindful skepticism about what is being encouraged and what we choose to accept and believe. We can pay attention to how we feel when public figures appeal to our self-interests and biases. This week can be the beginning of a shift from negative to positive feelings regarding our fellow humans. It is a time to discover that brotherliness and sisterliness is the manifestation of the best part of our inner nature.
Why is this week devoted to recognizing our siblinghood? The concept came about through efforts of the newly formed National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice) to counter the sectarian sentiments of many Americans in the 1920s. The prominent social activist founders of the organization encouraged the President to proclaim the week as an official event.
They hoped to set aside one week each year to encourage people of all faiths to meet together to discuss their differences and to reaffirm the brotherhood that crosses religious belief systems. They chose this week because it includes George Washington’s birthday.
During Washington’s administration, he wrote a letter to the Hebrew congregation in Newport, Rhode Island to ease their fears about anti-semitism. Washington’s message said, in part, that in this country there would be “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”. The drive against sectarianism and religious bigotry energized the siblinghood efforts of many of the country’s religious organizations.
As time went on, the issues addressed during Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week expanded to include race, social class, gender equality, sexual orientation, and differently abled people. The week is observed by many people of various religions, no religions, and political persuasions. The idea is to make the United States a better place for everyone, not just some of us.