No Contact seems so extreme, even wicked, in this “family is everything” culture where PSAs remind parents to “talk to your children.” (Wow! I can’t believe that actually needs to be said outloud!) But when you think about it, No Contact is a silent, ignored part of the American culture. You might even say that without No Contact, America as we know it today wouldn’t even exist!
If you’re not a Native American, then you’re a descendant of immigrants who came of their own free will or of the abomination known as the slave trade. Perhaps you’re even an immigrant yourself. If your ancestors came over willingly from the Old Country, they left it all. Ellis Island is called “the isle of hope and tears” for a reason.
You could say they went No Contact when they set sail for the New World. They knew darn well that when they kissed their families goodbye in the Old Country, they would never, ever see them again. They consciously made that decision and came to America anyways leaving mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers behind forever. They went, apart from the occasional letter, No Contact.
The family on my father’s side were immigrants who left everything behind, including any information about the family tree, in Germany/Prussia in the the 1870s. The family was huge and cold. No love. No affection. Yet they clung to each other because, well, I’ve no idea why actually. My great-grandmother (apparently) didn’t even know the names of her grandchildren: she called every grandson “Butch” and every granddaughter “Tina.”
Five generations later, the concept of “family” seems to have taken a wrong turn somewhere. On the one hand, families are closer, more enmeshed, more huggy, more “I-love-you.” On paper, those are good things. But if the basic family dynamics are toxic, what is the point? The word “Family” is used as a Free Pass to perpetuate shocking abuse while the perpetrators still expect affection, hugs, I-love-you’s.
Someone like you and I who step away from the abuse and say, “If this is ‘family’ then somebody goofed” are seen as Black Sheep. We are the Trouble Makers who committed the unforgivable sin of “tearing apart” the family.
But this is a nation of immigrants! Our ancestors made the choice to go No Contact also. Perhaps they were fleeing religious persecution. Or poverty. But they took that step and Americans celebrates its immigrants, it’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” as it says on the Statue of Liberty. Yet we, the “new” immigrants who also “yearn to breathe free” are demonized and I personally find that hypocritical of us as individuals and as a nation.
“No Contact” is as American as apple pie or baseball. It’s in our DNA. Our ancestors didn’t put up with being treated like crap in the Old Country and we shouldn’t put up with being treated like crap in the New Country even if it is by “family.” That’s no excuse for abuse.
Let’s face it. We wouldn’t allow a stranger to perpetuate 1/10th of the abuse we put up with from our families. But somehow the words “family” and “love” are supposed to make it all okay.
Well, it doesn’t.
Our ancestors left everything and everyone behind to seek a better life for themselves and their children. That’s what we’re doing too. Going No Contact and leaving everyone and everything behind to find something better — psychologically, emotionally and relationally.
It it was okay for our courageous immigrant ancestors to go No Contact, then it’s okay for us to do too. Heck! It’s downright American!