Sleeping with the Enemy

Obviously political tempers have ratcheted up here in Tacoma, Washington, so much so that the local paper recently ran a long story on how families can cope with political disagreements.

I told Leslie that was really quite simple. If she were to vote for the Bush administration I would simply file for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Unfortunately, I suspect I would find it difficult to even remain good friends with someone who actively supported Bush. I guess I could somehow manage to remain brothers, but even then it would put a strain on the relationship.

Judging from some of the comments I've read on blogs, I suspect that the divide that runs through this nation is going to become even wider as this term plays itself out.

The Christian Scientist Monitor has been running an excellent series, Talking with the Enemy, one that I'll be spending more time reading in the near future. Here's a short introduction to the series:

What strikes me most about "Talking With the Enemy," the series of commentaries starting today, is the tough-mindedness of the writers considering America's polarization. None of them argues against polarization merely because it is oppositional or rudely expressed. All of them recognize that democracy does not wear dainty white gloves and speak in polite murmurings. Yet, with only one exception in this eight-part series, America's current state of mind alarms them. They fear that stark and bitter polarization over issues such as the war in Iraq endangers our future - not because the polarization makes people angry, but because it makes us dysfunctional as a society.

Practically speaking, though, I have fairly good skills dealing with people whose ideas and values I tend to disagree with. As a liberal teacher in a conservative school district, I became quite adroit at defusing issues or simply switching the topic when things got too heated up.

At times I found that some of my favorite students were ones who came from very different religious and economic backgrounds than my own. While I still didn't share many of their fundamental beliefs, I respected, and sometimes envied, their religious faith. These kids often had a strength of character that was admirable, and they lived their values.

I still remember being a little shocked when one of my favorite students from the Apostolic Church told me that she hoped I wouldn't be disappointed in her because she was not going to go to college, was going to get married young, raise a large number of children, and never have a job outside the home. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Though that certainly wasn't the lifestyle I chose for my family or for my own daughter, I thought it was fine that she had made her own choice and wanted to abide by it. In fact, I was genuinely impressed with the way most Apostolic families raised their children.

It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree on very fundamental values and still manage to respect other people's choices, but it is not an easy task, particularly if one person wants to impose his choices on the other person. I'm far too independent to put up with anyone trying to limit my own personal choices, but I'm also far too libertarian to want to limit other's choices unless it's clear that in doing so they will hurt others.

3 thoughts on “Sleeping with the Enemy

  1. Ah, but it’s too good not to be true, isn’t it Jason.?

    Of course the main point isn’t to divorce your country and get in bed with Canada as suggested on your site by several people Jason.

    The real point is that I can manage to get along with anyone other than my wife — at least until we can throw these bastards out of office in two years and find a Democrat who can win the presidency.

  2. I agree. A spouse is very different from a colleague, an acquintance, or even just a really good friend. My wife is my best friend. The person with whom I want to spend as much time as possible. Yes, we differ and argue, but in the end, we are very similar. A difference like that, well… it would imply we really aren’t that similar.

    As for divorcing one’s self from the U.S., well… I concede as much as I may “kid-on-the-square” (to borrow a term from Al Franken) about it, I know I would not do that. However, I can’t say never, because I don’t know what the next 4 years will bring. I think Mark Morford at the San Francisco Gate (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2004/11/05/notes110504.DTL&nl=fix) has it right — as do you. Now is the time to stay and fight. Redouble our efforts. No one wants to give up and turn the schoolyard over to the bullies. But it is going to be difficult. And in the face of such a daunting task, it is only normal to doubt its worth.

What do you think?