Mixed Marriage, the Other Half

My wife Carol Brown, recently wrote a blog entry for American Thinker asking for advice on how to handle politics in a politically mixed marriage. As the other half, I would like to offer my observations of our journey towards "marital bipartisanship," as one reader so wittily put it. For the sake of context, I will first say a little about my own political journey.

I began as a Goldwater conservative with distinctly John Birch Society leanings. I still see great merit in the sentiment behind "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice ..." My faith was baptized in the Spirit evangelical at a time when born again was a term foreign to most main stream Christian churches. It should be noted that back then my political fellow travelers or co-religionists would have never dared to mix politics and religion in the way the right does today. To this day, my deepest value is a Midwestern, suck-it-up-and-go individualism that my wife finds hard to deal with.

My initial break with conservatism began in college when I started to suspect that the right in this country was far more willing than the left to use the police powers of the state to narrow my tastes in reading and thought, styles of dissent, and desires for association. I witnessed the tail end of McCarthyism and saw the excesses of COINTELPRO. Any government, large or small, can interfere with life, liberty and justice in ways that are quite frightening. Within my memory, it has been right leaning American regimes that have shot at their own citizens (and killed a few at places like Kent State, Jackson State, and Ruby Ridge). I began to think the left was far more honest about democracy and personal freedom than the right.

As I write this article, I find my current place on the political spectrum much harder to pin down than I would have imagined. I have never had much use for the term "liberal," except in the broad sense of "liberal western democracies." Or maybe its use in the more intellectual sense made out in the French rationalism of the Enlightenment. So, for convenience sake, let's just say I'm a disaffected leftist.

Getting back to the issue of mixed marriage, I ask myself: "What do I feel about my wife's movement towards the right?"

While I find it very trying and I do not want to discuss political issues with her, I am quite proud that she is willing to rethink and reinvent her political narrative. I'm happy for her when American Thinker publishes her blogs. Since I believe she thinks hard about issues, I'm glad she has a public forum in which her ideas are heard and may have influence. (The irony that I do not wish her to influence me has not gone unnoticed in our household!)

Since my wife's shift to the right, I admit to reticence when it comes to political discussions with her. At times, my defensiveness makes me unnecessarily strident in political discourse. Those are bad moments. And since Carol loves to discuss politics, our political differences are frequently highlighted.

So for now, we're following the advice of some AT readers and have agreed not to discuss politics. But since my wife's underlying values and exceptional qualities of care and empathy for those around her haven't changed, I'm not sure that the politics matter.