Politics, Passion and Pain

How Partisanship, Pundits and Pathologies Tore my Family Apart

You know what? I don’t even know where to begin. In fact, I can barely see the screen before me through swollen, bleary, tear-soaked eyes. When I think about my 38 year marriage to one man and the blessing of two healthy. adult, married children and the fact that none of them are speaking to me, it cuts me like a knife.

Some would say it started the day Donald Trump came down that escalator to announce his candidacy for President. I know it started long before that. My husband and I knew we were of opposite parties when we married. He, a conservative Republican, and me a left of center Democrat. We actually agreed on most things, except for maybe some fiscal issues. I remember when our family joke started. We went to vote at the fire station in 1984. I went ahead of him and he called out to me, “Don’t forget to vote the way I told ya, honey.” We’ve  joked about it during every Presidential election since. Except this year. More on that later.

He told me enjoyed politics and sports. For years, we watched college football and the Dolphins together. He would watch a lot of “talking heads” while I raised the kids, kept the house and enjoyed the arts. I played guitar and piano, did arts and crafts, and spent a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen. Nobody seemed to mind that.

Ours was never a smooth marriage. We went through a lot of things. We had medical issues and monetary issues. We had disagreements on a lot of things. There was never any infidelity that I was aware of, but there was indiscretion and dishonesty on his part in other very hurtful ways.

When our kids left home for college and launched into adulthood, it left us with a lot of time on our hands. We had to rediscover each other. We tried hard to find common ground. We watched sports together, we played sports together. We tried travel. We tried all kinds of things we could do together, but nothing seemed to draw us back in tune. Since I knew he liked politics, I started paying attention. I noticed that he had a deep disdain for Barack Obama, which I did not understand. He would roll his eyes and grunt every time the President was on television. I didn’t understand some of his reasoning. None of what he was saying was even evident to me.

Then came Donald Trump, a man for whom I had no respect to begin with. I started paying attention. I also started reading and watching more news. I began watching with him, on Fox News, but couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then I found MSNBC. This was a station that made no accusations without documentation and whenever I had doubt, I researched.

As each week passed, my husband became more and more contentious with our “discussions” that even the dog would leave the room, until the day when he said to me, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” What I heard was, “You’re stupid.” The fireworks began. Every time I asked him a question about Donald Trump, he couldn’t answer, and responded with an attack on Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. It dawned on me that he was doing this because that’s all he was hearing on Fox News, or from Ruch Limbaugh, Mark Levin and all the other Right Wing Pundits.

I tried as hard as I could to help him see that he was not getting all the news, or only one side. He was being fed misinformation or partial information upon which he was forming his opinions. He was believing conspiracy theories that had no basis in truth and he was growing more and more angry. It got to the point where everything I said about ANY topic became a point of contention. We found ourselves arguing over whether the sky was blue or not, and he always had to have the snarky last word.

When I had a concrete example for him that even he agreed was wrong, I thought I was making progress. The fact that the ONLY network or TV station is the country that did NOT cover the March for our Lives in its entirety, that did NOT show the speeches or the mass of people, the protest  signs but only the COUNTER protests was the purest example of a one sided view of the world. Donald Trump, the NRA and the far right didn’t want its minions to see it or hear the truth. Their mantra was that the Democrats want to take away their guns and showing that event would have taken away from their disinformation campaign.

I began watching Senate and House hearings, reading reports and articles and learning as much as I could. More than any GOP Senator did, I read the entire Mueller report. I DO know what I’m talking about. I am probably as if not more informed as any reporter or participant in Washington. FOX NEWS, RUSH LIMBAUGH, TOM FITTON, MARK LEVIN, DAN BONGINO…. They are all guilty of pushing conspiracy theories and molly-coddling a lying, cheating, grifting man who is posing as President to milk the government for all he can while doing the work for Putin. (latest is destroying US participation in surveillance pact and the planes to do it).

What you may not know about me is that I am marshmallow. I hate to be around people who are not happy. I spent my whole life becoming a chameleon, trying to fit in at all costs, not rocking the boat. What did that do for me? It cost me own identity. I repressed my own demons and my own feelings, and began to drink them away. I became an active alcoholic. Today, after 15 years of sober living, I:ve never wanted to drink more !

Like cats and dogs we fought. Last year, during one particular painful fight, I told my husband I can’t live with him anymore. He pushed and pushed, and finally told me that I had to be the one to call the kids and tell them we were getting divorced. I was gasping with tears and choking on phlegm. ”I dare you,” he said.  I was so emotional, so angry, and so out of control that I actually did it. My logical mind knew it was wrong, but I was too far gone emotionally to be able to control myself. It was a grave error because it changed my life forever.

My daughter’s reaction was typical. She said, “Okay mom, just keep me out of it.”

My son hung up on me. He has barely spoken to me since.

In the past year, we have all been navigating through a world pandemic which has been poorly managed at the national level due to partisan politics, and a crashed economy, that our President thinks is making a V-shaped recovery because of the stock market. More than half the people I know are out of work, have run out of unemployment assistance, some have been evicted, some have been dipping into retirement savings, some have used up all of their savings.  I know many who have, for the first time in the lives, spend hours waiting in FOOD LINES. No, Mr. President, you did not manage a booming recovery.

My 89 year old mother, who lives with us, was diagnosed with lung cancer and emphysema, and began treatment in January. On top of that, I was diagnosed with advanced degenerative disc disease, stenosis and psoriatic arthritis of the spine. In January and February, I chauffeured my mother to chemo and radiation treatments, scans and check-ups. All the while, at home, administering breathing treatments and cooking anything and everything I could to tempt her dwindling appetite. Thank God she beat the cancer. Today the biggest challenge is keeping up her spirits and her oxygen. While my husband has been good to her, the same cannot be said for how he treated me. There were days when I could barely walk. Those were the days he would leave me to walk the dog.

It wasn’t until October that I finally gave up trying to save him from going any further down the false media rabbit hole. I told him I gave up. He can believe what he wants, think what he wants, do what he wants. I don’t care anymore. But he can’t do it with me. The only problem as I see it is if we divorce, we will both end up paupers.

The very last straw was two weeks ago. I was trying to make my way back to the bathroom, the night before I was scheduled to go in for an epidural. I overheard him on the phone talking about the John Durham Report. I stopped in my tracks. My personal theory is that Durham hasn’t found anything yet that feeds Trumps narrative, so they didn’t want to come out before the election with a nothing burger so as not to embarrass him. Then I heard my husband say, “No, I can talk, she’s on the other side of the house.” That made me want to hear more…

My husband proceeded to talk to whomever  about the fight we had the night prior, when he told me, when asked, that yes, he thinks that Joe Biden is corrupt. That whole idea makes me laugh… he thinks Biden is corrupt, yet he will vote for Trump.

I walked into the bedroom and asked him, “Who are you talking to?”

He said “Your son.”

I grabbed the phone and angrily affirmed, “Do not allow your father to talk to you about me or my politics or anything we might fight about.”

My son said, “I’m not.”

My husband has now turned my son into a liar.

Further, a few days later, after my husband had voted, I asked him if he had voted the way I told him to, you remember, the family joke, he got testy… he forgot the joke… and he snapped at me and said, “NO!”

I confirmed with him. “So. You voted for Trump?”

“I did.”

“Okay.” I said, and hung up.

My husband also shared that story with both of my children.

Fast forward to today, the day before Thanksgiving. Not only are none of my family members coming home for the holiday (likely due to the Pandemic, or we’re using that as a convenient excuse), but I haven’t heard their voices in over two weeks. My daughter has blocked me on Facebook and my son is ignoring texts.

The last time I saw either one was in January. The last time I spoke to my son, we had a disagreement about a point he was making. (I guess I’m not permitted to disagree).  My husband, knowingly or unknowingly has been driving nails in the coffin of my relationship with them even though the two of us have made some strides.

We watched the documentary, “The Brainwashing of my Father”  a study in the rise of right wing media that goes as far back as when Richard Nixon hired Roger Ailes to help with his campaign in marketing. I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD HEAR THESE WORDS… my husband said he would give up all right wing media for 90 days to see if that would help. I am still in shock, and not sure I trust him to make that break cleanly….

So we are healing, little by little. I wasn’t in any hurry to throw away a 38 year marriage, so I was thrilled to see him put his marriage ahead of his politics. (He hadn’t been doing that for the past three years.) He had chosen Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Mitch McConnell, William Barr, Rush Limbaugh… all of them, ahead of me. With this I was unable to cope. When I told him I had an attorney and papers were drawn up, I think he realized how serious I was.

In the end, all I have left is prayer and my dog, and the dog is old. I have one more thing. I have a glimmer of hope that a man with honesty, integrity and compassion will take over the helm of this country on January 20th at noon. I pray my family will heal too.