It started like a bad joke, like an irony, like some kind of anti-authoritarian back lash. I laughed. We all did. I joked, when he would say something horribly Republican, I would say “this from the guy that shut down 2nd Avenue with Transit.” I mean come on people, we’d marched for gay rights, we’d marched to free Mumia, we’d marched against the Iraq War, we’d marched against Republicans and their conventions. We’d linked arms. We’d chanted. We’d run from police. We’d done time behind the barricades. We’d done drugs, a whole lot of them.
Dave was always into politics. He’d worked on the Dukakis campaign as a promising young youngster with a quick wit and a limitless intellect. He was always outspoken in the politics class we took together. Dave’s parents were both attorney’s, like mine, but unlike mine, they were both liberal. Dave believed what they believed: free speech, free press, free religion, social safety-net, universal education, anti-police, anti-war, freedom and opportunity for all people.
Together Dave and I hated George W. Bush, and were horrified when he attacked Iraq for absolutely no logical reason. We hated the wire tap thing, and created an audio project of fictional wire tapped conversations from the Oval Office. We were appalled when the country re-elected this maniac. In Argentina, on a theater trip with RAT Conference, we explained to the kids down there that in fact the whole country was not pro-Bush, that the coasts were not pro-Bush. We explained that we all hated him, that we protested, that the rest of the stupid country had elected that warmonger with a personal vendetta, not us.
At Sticky, the show we made at Bowery Poetry Club, Dave poked fun at GWB and the entire political system. He wrote political plays, made political jokes, all at the expense of the administration. He put on comedic press conferences that made the administration look as foul as it was. All us leftists laughed. We had our small corner of the country, and we reveled in it.
Then came the 2008 election. Dave didn’t like Obama, neither did I. We’d been Hill fans, so we were together on that. I lean anti-war, and Obama said he wanted to up the US military presence in Afghanistan. I didn’t know it then, but it turns out Dave didn’t think Obama was military interventionist enough. I didn’t know that we’d come around to being fully in support of Obama, although I figured he’d get our votes. But then it got way worse. Before I knew what was happening, Dave was supporting McCain. He wanted an American exceptionalist. Y’know, like George.
I thought it was a gag, a lark, a spoof. So did friends and fellow artists, who were asking me “is that a joke?” I said “yes,” because that was the only plausible answer. Dave said “stop saying that.”
So I was like, “you’re fucking joking with this bullshit, no?”
“No,” he said. “It’s not a joke. I’m a Republican.”
I started to wonder if that might be grounds for divorce.
I realized quickly that, while in New York City this may be grounds for divorce, I didn’t want joint custody with a republican. So I started to weigh my options.
Perhaps I could convince him not to be a republican, point out to him the absurdness of his position, get him to admit that it was all just some acid flashback. Perhaps I could pretend he wasn’t a republican, and instead call him a libertarian. Perhaps I would wake up and find this was all a weird Hunter Thomson esque dream and I just needed more breakfast.
I tried them all. None of them worked.
My next tactic was to just not talk to him about politics or anything even remotely political at all. We spent alot of time being quiet. I’d found the best plan! No talking! No debating! No disagreeing! We talked about our son, our practical lives, it was fine. But Dave couldn’t do it. He likes to talk politics. I like to talk art. Too often the two topics converge. And despite my best impression of a person who is not interested in talking about politics, Dave continued to talk politics with me.
He would say things like, “gun control is a bad idea.” And I would Freak Out. He would posit “Obamacare will be a national disaster.” And I would yell about how it was actually going to Help Us. He would declare “US military intervention is beneficial for the course of humanity.” And I would sing anti-war hymns while tossing broccoli in my wok.
Finally he was like, “why are you freaking out? Can’t we just have a reasonable conversation about ideas?” I said “no, not when your ideas are the worst concoction of ideas I’ve ever heard.”
I know that’s unreasonable, to refuse to engage in a conversation just because you disagree with your
opponent husband. But I was too angry. I felt betrayed. I thought he was going to bring home guns and leave them loaded under our pillows just in case Brooklyn exploded in sectarian violence. I thought he was going to make us replace our organic local farm raised free range whole milk with cartons of fossil fuel.
I did not want to have a reasonable conversation. I thought everything he was saying was horrible. Even worse, it turned out that the place where his new found republicanism most clashed with my anti-war liberalism was on the international battlefield. He’s pro US intervention in pretty much every conflict worldwide (he would probably say it’s more nuanced than that, whatever), whereas I think we should make an effort to not kill anyone for any reason at any time on any continent.
He started writing articles wherein it became clear that he was not going to wake up, shake off the past few years, and turn back to the leftist perspective we’d once shared. We realized that somehow, some way, we would have to find a way to live together, and not in silence, either. Our conversations about politics started being conversations about our conversations about politics. That’s actually even more trying than it sounds. Our collective patience was frayed.
People ask me how it can be, “how can you be married to a Republican?”
First I had to get over the shock. That wasn’t easy. Then I had to remember that I respect this person, and he respects me, and that neither of us are advocating the miserable demise of humanity. I tried to figure out where this change had come from, if it was strictly an idealogical shift of part of a larger change. The truth was, it was the latter. I think if it hadn’t been, if it had been a mere switching of allegiances, we wouldn’t have been able to stick it out quite so well. His new perspective was part of a larger change, of taking personal responsibility for himself, and for his ideas. I approve of change. I’m a huge believer in a fresh start.
I also realized that party lines are not definers of political perspective. The parties do what is convenient for them, what works with the shifting views of their constituencies and donor groups. Parties have no allegiance other than expediency. It is the individuals that wield the power, and their perspectives and considerations, that are relevant. Party lines can just be repainted and repainted again to suit their needs and varying inclinations. A person has to stand firm, and not be swayed by one party or another simply because the perspective of that party is assumed to be in line with one’s own. The real struggle is to be constantly questioning ideologies and dogmatisms, to be perpetually seeking to find the underlying reasons for a perspective, and to keep a clear, open mind, without any prejudices.
We’re working on it.