who decides?

by Stephen

When I was little, my big brother, four years older than me, saw a wrestling move on tv and decided he wanted to try it on me. He laid on his back and stretched his arms and legs toward the ceiling. He had me climb on top, hands to hands and feet to feet. Just barely balancing, he then kicked his feet backward and sent me flying across the room into my dresser. 

After a car ride to the hospital, I ended up in a sling with a severely sprained wrist, and he ended up grounded.

When I was really little, he tried to teach me to ride a skateboard. He had me lay flat on it and paddle for speed like I was learning to swim. I was maybe 4. I had a fun little cruise down the sidewalk in front of our house until my skateboard slammed into a pile of rocks, stopping it on impact. I kept flying – face first into the sidewalk. 

After a car ride to the hospital, I ended up with several stitches on my chin. He probably ended up in trouble, but I don’t remember that one. 

When I was 7, we were huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans. A new movie had just come out, and we went over to our friends’ house because we were all going to the theater together to watch it. We couldn’t wait. We had time to play first, so we naturally brought all of our TMNT toy weapons outside and went into battle in their back yard. Plastic swords, nunchucks and other weapons were harmlessly being swung around at each other as we were naturally all the good guys, but we also needed somebody to fight. My brother, who had a plastic ninja star in his pocket, pulled it out and threw it at me. It hit me directly on my eyeball. 

After a car ride to the hospital, I ended up wearing an eye patch like a pirate for some number of weeks. Neither of us got to see the movie we were so pumped about that day. I suppose I eventually saw it with one eye.

My brother loved playing with me… or maybe he loved torturing me. He was quite a bit older, after all, and probably twice my size. He was into sports, and I was into video games and daydreaming about adventure. But with our bedroom doors facing each other and only 3 feet apart, our worlds always collided. 

As we got older, our relationship matured and grew.

After my brother moved out of our parents’ home on not-great circumstances, he humbly approached me one day when I was still just in high school. He told me he looked up to me because I, quote: Always did the right thing, without question. He admired that, and he’s right, I was a bit strait-laced. I suppose I still am.

I remember he wanted the incredibly ugly brown clay box I had made in school, and he kept it on display in his apartment because it meant so much to him that I’d made it. I didn’t really understand why. It was unquestionably ugly and I had as much pottery-making talent as I did affinity for sports. Probably less.

When my wife got into a car accident one day and the engine came an inch from busting through the dash and killing her, she was rushed to the hospital by an ambulance while suffering from shock. My brother, who had nothing to do with the hospital ride this time, raced to meet us with tears in his eyes, trembling as he told me how scared he was for us. 

When he held my daughter for the first time. I made him something we didn’t think he’d get to be. I made him an uncle, and I’ll never forget watching him hold my baby gently in his arms as he stared down at her in awe. 

When he made *me* an uncle. I always knew we had a special bond. We were brothers.

So, imagine how I felt when I woke up one morning and realized he had blocked me on Facebook. The brother that ripped the Christmas paper off the Super Nintendo with me when we were kids; who dragged me outside to toss the ball over and over and even taught me how to throw it, something I enjoyed more than I let on, was deciding never to talk to me again because I had made the decision not to go to our family’s church anymore. 

Imagine how I felt realizing the entirety of my future would exist without the family that raised me. Not by unfortunate happenstance, but by choice. That my brother would no longer look up to me, affectionately display my ugly brown clay box, or send his car airborne over speedbumps to meet me at the next unlucky emergency. That there was literally nothing left between us, not even a holiday card or an acknowledged text.

All this because I needed to explore answers somewhere else.

Why are we so beholden to our beliefs? Why can’t we learn to question them or at least accept and admire the need for exploration in others. Why do we let other people decide for us?

Who decides what’s right, anyway? Is it some old man in a grey suit with a red tie, a silver tongue and a black hole where a heart once lived? Is it the voice of a dictator we seek? 

Who decides about all these religious scriptures from all kinds of holy books and who decides which one is the actual one? I’m asking because I want to know.

Who decides what we leave and what we take from one of these books, and who decides how we interpret that one verse that seems a little extreme?

Who decides?

Who decides if we should be red or if we should be blue and who decides if you’re red or blue enough?

Who decides where the lines should be drawn in the sand? Did you decide, or did they?

Who decides?

Who decides whether my brother is my brother, or whether we’re just distant memories of each other?

I’m not saying you’re wrong. Really, I’m not. I don’t even know. But there are real consequences, so I’m just asking you. 

Who decides?

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