×

I can take a swing at my brother—but the Russians better not

Sylvester Stallone punches Dolph Lundgren in a scene from the film 'Rocky IV', 1985.
United Artists | Getty Images
Sylvester Stallone punches Dolph Lundgren in a scene from the film 'Rocky IV', 1985.

One time my brother falsely accused me of stealing money from him. We were in the Post Office, and he wouldn't let it go, and I wouldn't let it go—I think we were both drunk—and it ended with punches being thrown.

When we were younger, one particularly heated argument ended in a full-scale BB gun war inside of the condo my family lived in. Though no one was seriously hurt, he and I got in a lot of trouble when our mom found a brownie pan riddled with indentations from BBs.

We fought growing up.

We nearly brawled in a funeral home as adults.

We've gone nearly a full year without speaking to each other.

There have been times when we felt like complete strangers.

But even when the emotion between us was far closer to hate than love, there was still a difference between who was inside the circle and who was outside of the circle. Sure, the circle might have had my brother and me throwing punches in the middle, but if someone would have joined in and helped either one of us beat on the other, the Brothers McKissen would have quickly turned on the outsider.

Growing up, our dad shared very little wisdom with us. Most of it was about the genius of Bob Seger and why he thought it was a bad idea to marry someone you had never slept with. But he drilled home the principle that you always stuck up for your family, even when you weren't getting along.

You might be angry with your brother.

You might even hate your brother, at least for a little while.

When you share the same physical space, when you have a complicated history, when you're competing over finite resources, when you know someone's strengths and weaknesses—when these circumstances are present, sometimes hate, anger, and division are inevitable.

In other words, it might be okay for me to call my brother an idiot.

But it's never okay for you to call my brother an idiot.

"A family can survive yelling at each other. A family can even survive hating each other, as long as the family is trying to repair the relationship. What a family can't survive is outside parties joining the fight, and not being told—forcefully—to get out."

I've participated in the fistfight that we call politics. For a little while I served as Executive Director of the lobbying group for Christmas tree farms (yes, there is such a thing) when the Heritage Foundation labeled a piece of legislation we crafted "Obama's Christmas Tree Tax."

After that happened, I got one email that ended with "Merry F*cking Christmas, you socialist thug." I got another email telling me this piece of legislation was literally the most un-American thing that ever happened, and I was personally to blame for this act of treason.

Politics is rough, even at the small scale, even when you're dealing with Christmas tree legislation. But as long as we're still on the same team, we can survive the roughness.

A family can survive yelling at each other. A family can even survive hating each other, as long as the family is trying to repair the relationship.

What a family can't survive is outside parties joining the fight, and not being told—forcefully—to get out.

Over the weekend the CIA, several intelligence officials, and legislators from both sides of the aisle indicated their belief Russia had joined the fistfight that was our last election.

Politics is a sharp-elbowed business.

Sometimes it ends with you getting told, "Merry F*cking Christmas."

But sharp elbows and the active interference of a foreign government in our election are two different things. If the Senate chooses to ignore this, it will set a precedent—and it would be incredibly presumptuous for Republicans to assume the precedent is based on Democrats always coming out on the losing end.

That's why the Senate needs to purse its investigation, wherever it may lead.

This is the moment in a fight between two brothers where they need to decide if they want to win the fight at the expense of any hope of having a long-term relationship, or if they want to stop punching each other long enough to tell the outsider what he needs to hear:

This is our fight.

This is our family.

And you don't belong here.

Commentary by Dustin McKissen, the founder and CEO of McKissen + Company, a strategy, marketing, and public relations firm based in St. Charles, Missouri. He was named one of LinkedIn's "Top Voices" in 2015 and 2016, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Organizational and Industrial Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @DMcKissen.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCOpinion on Twitter.