“I thought we belonged together.”

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If you don’t know Kathleen Madigan, you are missing out. She’s a sassy, hilarious, family-oriented, jaded, conspiracy theory-loving, Irish alcohol enthusiast … although, those last two may be redundant.

But, more than all that, she always offers great perspectives. She’s incredibly self-aware when it comes to how her upbringing in a Midwest Irish-Catholic family affects her view of the world, and reports back–with a lighthearted poignancy–about how it contrasts with others.

For her latest Netflix special, Aunt Kath did an interview on NPR, during which she recounted an idea she discusses as part of her stand-up:

MADIGAN: Growing up in St. Louis, honestly, I thought being Catholic was being Christian – until you go to the Deep South in the States and then they make it very clear to you those are not the same things. But it’s not the words, it’s the tone. When they’ll go, (imitating Southern drawl) well, are you Christian?

And I go, well, I’m Catholic. And they’re like (imitating Southern drawl) well…

(LAUGHTER)

MADIGAN: …We’re Christian now.

I’m like oh, OK. I thought we were on the same team, Team Jesus. But clearly, I’ve joined a cult you don’t approve of…

Go watch a snippet of her standup here.

I’ve loved that idea so much since I heard her deliver it, because it sums up so-perfectly this sort-of-dismayed feeling I’ve (not to be dramatic) ALWAYS HAD. Growing a up a member of the Church of Christ, it was so annoying to try and explain that to my Baptist and Catholic friends (“But, what ARE you?” “I’m a Christian… what do you MEAN?”). And, yes, I call her Aunt Kath on Twitter, fight me… a gal can dream.

In all my years on this planet, I’ve seen so many ways people rebuff what doesn’t align with their views.

When I reached out to diversity officers at various companies & saw, firsthand, that inherent bias exists even in those entrusted with ensuring its management. Diversity Under the Influence–its a real thing.

When I was at church, and saw very real prejudice and ugliness and stuff that made me scratch my head and question whether or not there was really Christ in the midst… and, then, nobody checking it.

When I see people on the political right say that their fellow citizens aren’t worth equal rights, and people on the left who want to give up rights by relinquishment of autonomy. Either way, they want to sentence everyone else to subjugation to cover their insecurities.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any-damn-body telling me I have to live “smaller”…

Because of the way so many issues are framed, we lose sight of the shared status many of us have. Abortion, anti-abortion. LGBTQ rights, anti-those. Gun ownership vs control. It all has to do with rights & liberties. Why ON EARTH would people limit those for themselves by limiting them for others??! Well, because of the political sides creating a skewed view of what government will mean to people.


We’re all part of this picture. From the far-right to recently-elected transgender representatives. We are ALL the ones who make up the American “family picture.”

And, even moreso, on a non-governmental scale that looks at us as humans… we are all people in this precise time and space.

To put it in religious terms: Aren’t we all God’s children?

When it comes to US politics, by way of public policy, we can find common ground as citizens.

We may not all call that thing the same name, but we could talk about how amazing it feels, how we see it as connecting us by being the source of what we all came from, what we want to do in pursuit of honoring it… we would find some amazingly-deep and compelling commonalities there. But, it’s used to divide because the labels aren’t the same.

So many divisions seem to miss the bigger picture. There is such little consideration for people who are different based on trifling reasons.

And that’s just stating fact, not judging. I couldn’t judge, because I’ve done it. As a kid, I repeated what I thought I should to align with what I was told was right. I know I have blind spots now–inherent bias is tricky… I’ve witnessed it as a party to and disapproving opponent. I’ve experienced how it feels to be on the receiving end of it.

It’s why I have been so crushed by learning how small peoples’ views are, how limiting their beliefs have been to their very lives, and how damaging it is not to find ways to see folks as your *people*. Sometimes, it seems as if people want to cling to the divisions and same old cycles–as if those negative things are the norm–rather than try something different. That’s the part that makes me really sad, the thing that was the largest & harshest shock to my system: realizing that not everybody had the goal of making friends.

Like, I was the kid who had a VERY REAL chance of getting kidnapped. Strangers were just friends I hadn’t met yet. And to learn that not everyone thought or felt that way was fine, but to learn how much they’d resist openness (to diverse friends, to seeing new POVs) was… kind of heartbreaking. Finally seeing the pain and fear that so many people are racked with has been eye-opening.

Coming from a family where I didn’t look exactly like anybody but my siblings & yet still was. thick as thieves with them, I’ve just had a perplexed head-scratchin’ attitude (that sometimes boils over into frustrated anger or outright annoyance) about the handling of so many social issues… the incongruousness of the platitudes, the inconsequential argument’s, the fighting for fightng’s sake, & haughtily-spoken-but-rarely-practiced “shoulds” just become too much.

With all the hate, exclusion, superficial non-substantial judgment, I can’t help but be confused… I thought we all belonged together.