October 1, 2019
I met my late husband on a blind date in 1952, the year Adlai Stevenson (Democrat) (some of you are saying “Who?”) was running for President against General Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Republican) We were both political junkies – Democrats -and since he was still in Dental School, I had to be a “cheap date.” And so he “courted” me at free Stevenson rallies. We were very vociferous and proactive, and despondent over our loss when Eisenhower won.
Fast forward to a time when we were married and my husband was finally earning money — which was about the time he switched parties and voted for Nixon. Our “mixed marriage” survived all 57 years until his demise in 2013. We listened respectfully to each other, recognized the extent to which we were both “dug into” our (his “new”) belief system and learned from each other. We didn’t think the other was stupid, ignorant, scheming or unpatriotic. (He, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge) Neither thought the other was a “bad” person, based on our political beliefs — or on anything else for that matter.
I will admit there were times when I entertained ideas about how to keep him away from the voting booth on election day, or tearing up his vote-by-mail ballot when I saw it in the out-mail box, but they never materialized. And so we both experienced political ups and downs as Nixon was followed by four more Republican presidents in my husband’s lifetime, ( not in this order): Ford, Reagan, Bush (1).Bush (2) and three Democrats: Carter, Clinton and Obama.
And I will never know if he would have become the “No Trump” Republican as did so many conservatives of our acquaintance. And I won’t even conjecture for this writing.
But I do know several “Mixed Marriage” couples now who are having a hard time with their relationship over this issue. I know too of dating couples who have either broken up over it, or if seeking a partner, have placed politics as an issue among their top criteria for a match.
What has happened to past civility and respect for our differences? For me, this is the single most frightening aspect of our current political climate. If we could only shed the idea that our disagreements make us natural enemies.
i must admit, I get stymied when I ask people from “the other side,” “Are you not outraged by the disrespect and direct defiance of law, or by inciting language or by lack of transparency ?” and I discover the answer, in most cases, to be “Well, I don’t like it but it doesn’t affect my support” followed by some version of a reference to “wonderful policies” and “what “everybody else” does. And that’s when I pull back and realize what “dug into” means. It means, “I ain’t budging” — and it comes from both sides.
So, it is true. I may not budge, and “they” may not budge which should not make us enemies. This is where history is such a balm. When I read about some of the most bellicose periods our country has experienced during its few hundred years of existence, I am comforted to know that we have always managed to survive in relative unity. This one may be the ultimate test.