What America Can Learn From Military Spouse Friendships

Originally shared here

Not since the Civil War have Americans felt more divided than we do now. The partisan antipathy runs so deep that we can’t imagine where this chasm bottoms out. Drop in a pebble, and you won’t ever hear it hit the ground.

We scream and rant about the people on the other end of the political spectrum. Conservatives calling liberals snowflakes, elitists, and libtards (a term that I find highly offensive — but that’s the point, isn’t it?). Liberals accusing conservatives of being wingnuts, zealots, and Rethuglicans (a mashup of Republican and thug).

A seemingly never-ending stream of memes fills our Facebook and Twitter feeds, deriding one side as the Evil Empire while likening the other to the Resistance. And before you think I’m getting on my high horse by proclaiming myself above the fray – as neutral as Switzerland – let me just say that I’m guilty of it too. As a passionate progressive and a huge geek, I happen to love the Princess Leia Resistance memes and have circulated my fair share of them.

The Two Americas

The political right and left have always engaged in heated debate – it’s part of our legacy as a nation. And, in the past, these debates have certainly caused rifts in relationships. We all have some version of that wacky [insert political affiliation here] uncle, who always seems to have one too many beers at family gatherings only to get on his political soapbox and launch into full-blown preacher-mode. (Full disclosure: I have been this person in the past.)

But there’s something different about America’s current polarization. We all feel it. After the election last year, corporate news outlets even went so far as to proclaim “There are Two Americas Now!” and proffered advice on how to make it through Thanksgiving dinner without having a major falling-out with our relatives. And maybe they’re right. Maybe there are two Americas.

But as a pale blue dot floating among what sometimes feels like a universe of red, my personal experience as the progressive wife of an active duty Marine has been quite different.

Currently, we’re stationed in the reddest section of one of the reddest states in America. With the exception of active duty military members, the majority of my neighbors are white and over 65. The city is one of the poorest in the state and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. During the election season, there weren’t many yard signs in my neighborhood, but the ones I saw were exclusively for Trump/Pence.

The Marine Corps, as most readers will know, has the reputation for being the most conservative branch of the military. And in my experience, this reputation is well-earned. Fox News fills nearly every television screen in our gyms, in the waiting rooms to update our IDs and in our medical clinics. Most of my friends are deeply religious and tend to vote Republican. As an Independent, an agnostic and an acolyte of the Sanders movement, I shouldn’t fit in with this crowd. I shouldn’t fit in in this city.

But that hasn’t been my experience at all.