Friday, March 30, 2012

On Love and Labels

I am a Democrat, a die-hard liberal. If you cut me, do I not need bleed blue? So no one was more surprised than me when I married Phil, a Republican. Now, he claims he is not affiliated and is an Independent but I’ve caught him furtively watching Fox News just enough times now to guess which way he swings. While most married couples often fight about the dishes or late night feedings, our worst disagreements have been about social security, national security, or global warming.  Were I not so heatedly discussing why Ronald Reagan is in fact not the greatest president ever, I might even be able to laugh at how ridiculous we must seem.

I met Phil about a month before George W. Bush was re-elected to his second term. At the time, I told him that if he won he probably wouldn’t hear from me again because I was intending to take a row boat to Canada. Our first date was just days after he won re-election. When he attempted to broach the subject over drinks I told him: “Not yet, the pain is still too fresh.”

But a funny thing happened that night. Given how defeatist I felt about the results of the national election, my mind actually felt free and truly clear for the first time in a long time to really get to know him. We talked about our lives, our dreams, our break-ups, our families and childhoods. He made me laugh and feel okay about being silly. Cut to three cape codders later and I’m singing Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs with him in a Karaoke bar in the West Village.

It was a great first night together and I started to fall for him. Not Phil who thinks the total size of the government should be a walnut or Phil who is hawkish in his approach to national security, but rather Phil the person. And thank G-d I had the good sense to do so. You see, once I stopped looking at him as a label, I could see all that we shared in common, not what divided us. We both wanted a family and wanted to raise children with a strong sense of self and values. We wanted to teach them that all people regardless of race, class, gender, or sexuality were created equal. We wanted to teach them the importance of kindness and love and understanding.

Now – we often have very different ways of wanting to make some of these things happen. I think some of the government programs out there offer great social value in ensuring equal access to opportunities for my and all children. My husband believes a private approach is more effective. We both believe passionately in our divergent approaches and will fight for them. But ultimately we try to stay focused (after about 10 rounds or so of healthy battling), that while our approaches may differ, the goal is the same.

Marrying someone and loving someone who thinks differently than me has made me both feel more strongly in my own convictions and has led me to strongly encourage others to look beyond the label. We all want to succeed. If we stay focused on what we have in common and the goals and beliefs we share, our homes and communities and country will be stronger for it.

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