Putting the campaign season in perspective with a little political humor from a snarky southern gal
by Debra M. Cole
You’re finally out with a grown man. He’s handsome. He’s fun. He works. He doesn’t have a parole officer and you don’t sense any Norman Bates Mama issues. He tells you he has children. Alrighty, you like kids so no problem. Whew! Things are looking up. But then the kicker. He’s a Republican! What the *$#@!
Well this happened to me. Despite that I took a deep breath and things have been great. I’m a well-rounded person and can yammer on about most anything. Finding topics on which to bond wasn’t a problem for us. And political verbiage isn’t a hobby for him like it is for me. Besides, my parents agreed on politics, but couldn’t get along otherwise and got a divorce.
During my very brief starter marriage in the 1990’s, my ex and I were so in-tuned politically we practically finished each other’s sentences. However, he had relationship challenges with Visa, MasterCard, and the IRS. Also, his condescending tone in reference to my thick accent and the suffer no fools mentality, became unbearable. He was like the starter home with a nice paint job on the exterior, only to realize there’s a shaky foundation underneath. One day I peeled back the impressive, polished Harvard Educated sheetrock and found nothing but wet cardboard. I immediately yelled to the conductor, “Hey Mister, I’ve got to get off this coo coo choo choo train right now!”
So things are still going well with my Republican manfriend. We’ve marched along on the path of love with just a few bumps and minor scratches. But then the presidential election came and bam! Conflict! Politics either strengthens the ties that bind or makes you want to stab each other with an ice pick. And you can’t escape it since it’s in on every channel and in all magazines. After a couple of heated discussions with lots of sarcasm and “How can you think that,” type of remarks. I panicked. I thought I was in chapter 5 of a Danielle Steele novel swimming in the Atlantic during high tide. The rough waves of fate, in this case democracy, were going to carry my true love away like “Wilson” in the Tom Hanks movie Castaway.
I spoke with my friends who were in the same predicament. Longtime pal “Carrie” can’t discuss global warming with her husband. While she can recite An Inconvenient Truth word for word, he thinks it’s all hype. Many doors have been slammed and pizza slices have been thrown across the room over the topic. But I don’t want to discount the role of genetics given her Italian heritage, and his second generation Irish Catholic background. Let’s just say their wedding was the party of the century.
A newlywed buddy of mine, “Molly,” was recently having trouble adjusting to matrimony. Molly’s a thirty-something Republican who skipped the starter marriage and waited it out. Having never lived with a man, she’s still getting a handle on the amount of food he consumes and the piles of change on the table, dresser, and kitchen counter. I assured her that she’s not alone. Millions of women, including my lipstick lesbian pals whose partners forgo the purse, are dealing with the same problem. You put the loot in a box and save for the next vacation. I went on to explain that the husband isn’t like the cat. You can’t just put a bowl out for him and expect it to last 3 days.
Already stressed from the grocery bill, marital bliss took another hit when Molly realized the depth of fondness her husband has for the Democrats. At a party her friends hopped on a tirade and said her man was “economically illiterate” for voting blue. The hubby fired back with a rant on the Bush administration’s failed policies, the growing gap of the rich and poor, and of course Karl Rove is a spawn of Satan. So needless to say the ride home wasn’t so pleasant. The subject came up during courtship, but love is blind and they married before the conventions when the topic was a lukewarm cup of chocolate milk instead of skin scorching black coffee.
How do couples make this work? Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver seem to manage. And political strategists Mary Matalin and James Carville appear to be very happy. I would imagine deep admiration and respect for the other’s beliefs fits into the dynamics, along with having moderate views on many issues. Common values and beliefs must exist for any relationship to succeed. Obviously, an extreme left wing secular tofu eating, dread-lock wearing socialist, whose best friend is a drag queen, can’t even have coffee with a homophobic, right-wing, bible thumping Christian fundamentalist deer hunter, much less get married.
Like these couples, I focus on the person and how we relate and how they treat others. Besides, people choose candidates with numerous influences outside of logic-socio-economic status, education, region, race, identity, laziness, and family influences to name a few. And for most people, political viewpoint is only one room in the house of character. So you want search the entire estate because sometimes the décor in the guest bathroom seems out of place with the rest of the house. For instance, I know this Republican pair who routinely launch into self-reliance and pull yourself up by your bootstraps preachy bullshit monologs. But they sure as hell don’t hesitate to ask for money from their parents who paid their college, a down payment on a house, and even a brief stint in rehab. And worse, when the check comes at the restaurant for some reason their sorry asses are always in the restroom.
On the other side of the aisle, there are northern white liberals who complain about red state racism and politically incorrect chatter. And yet, other than the office or the dry cleaners, they don’t associate with any blacks, Asians, or anyone who isn’t a white middle class Anglo. It’s funny that they will defend vile misogynistic rap lyrics because it’s an expression of culture, and labels, even for children’s sake, are a slippery slope to censorship. However “Jermal” is never invited over for dinner.
I knew some other liberals who had a brief layover in my airport of friendship. They would make disparaging remarks at the very mention of my church choir-directing job. Criticizing all religious thought and expression, in their minds, gave them the corner market on being interesting. The real truth was as I got to know them, they had as much depth as one of those toddler swimming pools that fits on your patio. Much like a politician, they picked a topic to showcase their pseudo-intellect. They should have dusted off a dictionary before pasting liberal to their identity. You know, it’s so annoying when people use words they don’t understand.
More important than finding common ground, the couples I mentioned must have learned to disagree and communicate without getting nasty and resulting to name-calling and insults. They wouldn’t have made it past the first date otherwise. But then again, shouldn’t all couples learn this? Furthermore, they must enjoy lively discussions and are very secure with themselves as is clearly the case with Schwarzenegger. You’ve got to admire the “Governator” for maintaining his Republicanism after marrying into the Kennedy clan. Talk about balls. And perhaps the debates and differences are exciting. One can’t underestimate the power of make-up sex.
Whether it’s politics, which movie deserved the Oscar, or where the thermostat should remain, we can count on conflicts, like death and taxes, as part of the human condition. And when we choose friends, mates, associates, car mechanics, and candidates. We all make bargains. We all decide what “baggage” we’re willing to take. And we must also seek understanding and skills to handle problems with the people we didn’t choose-our families.
Any disagreement whether it’s with your mate, mother, or hair dresser, has to be addressed in a respectful manner if you’re sincerely interested in functional relationships, and of course a hair cut that won’t frighten the children. I say “if” because there are folks out there who create chaos and thrive on drama. We’ve all suffered at their hands either at the Thanksgiving table or on a Judge Judy episode, thanks to our litigious society. For those of us who seek balance, communication is a never-ending class. There’s always a new chapter that requires greater effort.
I realize it sounds naive, but perhaps congress should invite some psychologists and marriage counselors to the capital for Professional Development Day, as it’s called in the Education world, and read some case studies of successful two-party marriages. They could learn a thing or two about listening, negotiating, and getting past the differences to solve problems for America. And come January, all of us will have to find a way to get along with the new President.
Debra Cole is a self-professed ‘lefty’ who calls it like she sees it. She was a public school teacher in Georgia for 9 years. Currently, she performs regularly in Atlanta area comedy clubs. She’s known for her sophisticated and smart humor that’s delivered with a seemingly sweet and yet surprising sarcastic Southern Georgia twang. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.