Friday, February 22, 2008

On Stridency in Bipartisan Marriages

The New York Times has a light piece in their "Modern Marriage" feature, "I Married a Republican." The author, Ann Hood, is of the all-good-people-are-Democrats school, yet she falls for and marries a man who "votes for the best candidates" - who almost always happen to be Republicans. Her friends are appalled. She finds his friends to be very nice people, yet she ends up ranting at them whenever politics comes up.

The moral turning point in the story comes when she realized that "it was not his stridency that was causing this rift in our marriage, but mine."

The story has a happy ending from Hood's (and the Times') perspective. Her husband decides Obama is the best candidate. As an Obama supporter myself, I applaud that outcome. I enjoy her suggestion that there should be a bumper sticker: "Barak Obama: Uniting America, One Bipartisan Marriage at a Time."

What struck me as odd about the story, though, was that the author never describes her political choices, or his, or anyone's as based on reasons. The whole frame of the story is that blind loyalty on our side is good, blind loyalty on the other side is bad. Stridency comes in for some muted criticism, because it creates marital rifts. But she does not make a case for choosing the best candidate. She is not won over by her husband's apparent calm and reasoned judgment. Only that she won.

Now, I appreciate that Ann Hood is employing a common women's conversational ploy of presenting herself as strident and unreasonable -- she is starting in the one-down position in relation to the reader -- so that the reader can invite her up to an equal position. I imagine that many of the women that she tells this story to respond with their own tales of realizing they were being unreasonable. This restores equality. It is a species of "troubles talk." Nonetheless, it seems to me that she missed the point of her own story. It is not just stridency that creates the rift. If we don't think critically about our own positions, and give others credit for thinking critically about theirs, we cannot reasonably heal the rifts created by our stridency.

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