I’m in love with a staunch Republican, while I am very liberal. We’re living in Texas (frustrated sigh). I’m afraid our sometimes heated debates may ruin any chance for us. I hold back a lot….
I’ll state my bias up front: When in doubt, I err on the side of love. Margaret Martin, LCSW, a couples therapist in Austin, Texas, says that love between a liberal and a conservative can absolutely work. But, she adds, laughing, “I personally would not copulate—you can quote me on this—with someone who did not respect my reproductive rights.” At age 19, Lovesick, I drew the same line, losing my virginity to a Republican, but first making sure he was pro-choice.
Heated debates alone are not going to destroy your romance. Martin says that all couples fight—whether about Hillary Clinton or Netflix—and that in an enduring attachment, you just have to fight fair, without threatening to break up, and make amends in a timely manner.
What’s troubling, Lovesick, is not the arguments, but that you “hold back a lot.” I wonder if you’re avoiding discussing politics because you’re happier avoiding unproductive arguments, or if you’re burying an important part of yourself in an effort to appease your partner. If it’s the latter, you might consider whether your partner can love you the way you are—warts, framed Ann Richards photographs, and all. To do that, the beloved needs to actually know you.
Of course, the relationship might not work out in the long run: Research shows that people are more likely to stay together if their politics are compatible.
Yet many of us know a happy couple beating these odds. Since my friend Eli Heinlen, a liberal public-school teacher in Baltimore, has been married to two Republicans, I decided to give her a call. The difference between her marriages, and the key to making political differences work in a relationship, Heinlen says, is respect. In her first marriage, her husband “was patronizing.” Heinlen and her second husband, by contrast, value each other’s intelligence and opinions. They also don’t feel the need to discuss politics much, not even who they’ll be voting for. “The basis of our relationship is apparently sex… sex and food,” she adds with a laugh. “I used to say, ‘Baby, maybe we should have some other interests in common,’ but this has been working for seven years.”
I have no job, no money, and no home. For the past six years I have struggled, but to no avail. My career has been destroyed by offshoring and the importation of H1B and L1B replacement workers. I can’t pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test due to disabilities in abstract functions and quantitative reasoning (i.e., math), and therefore cannot switch to teaching. My age and the length of my unemployment, not to mention my professional past, precludes me from working as a burger-flipper or salesperson. In fact, I can’t even get a job scrubbing toilets, because it’s “too likely you’d leave.” My question is this: Why in the hell shouldn’t I work to destroy the system that has done this to me by working to make a violent revolution?
—Molotov Cocktail, Anyone?
The first letter writer asks if she can love her political enemy; you wonder if you should kill yours. Both questions are profound and urgent.
I applaud you for understanding that capitalism is the problem rather than you. We are all so steeped in neoliberal individualism these days that it’s easy to get confused on this point. I also love that after all you’ve been through, you still have the will to fight.
You absolutely should work to destroy this system.
While organizing against capitalism isn’t as mainstream as it was during Occupy Wall Street, you can still find groups with this orientation, and you may wish to join one. Socialist Alternative elects politicians to local office and even shapes mainstream politics, pushing demands like the $15 minimum wage to the forefront of public consciousness. Other groups, like Solidarity and Young Democratic Socialists, help activists engaged in a range of labor and social-justice struggles to bring more radical ideas into those movements. Locally, many unaffiliated anarchists and socialists are producing radical publications, finding ways to organize on climate change, joining Black Lives Matter in the streets, and working to elect Bernie Sanders president.
But how, you wonder, is capitalism to be destroyed? I’m sure taking up arms against capitalism sounds like a crazy idea even to most Nation readers. Although I’m a peaceful person in favor of making love with Republicans (see above), I get why you’re asking this question. Even ending slavery in this country required massive bloodshed. Rich people do not like to give up their stuff.
But without a mass movement large enough to threaten capital, violence just won’t work.
As Leon Trotsky—neither a careerist liberal nor a hippie pacifist—explained in 1911, even if radicals kill some people or blow up a building, so what? All they create is a bit of chaos from which the system can easily recover.
You, Molotov, are an asset to any anti-capitalist movement. If you attempt any violence against the system as it is now, you’ll go to prison for the rest of your life, and this will do no one any good. Even worse, your actions could lead to more repression against others who are trying to change or destroy the system, making it harder for them to organize. No one does violence better than the state, which is, as Trotsky reminds us, “much richer in the means of physical destruction and mechanical repression than are the terrorist groups.” This is probably even more true of the United States today than it was of Russia in Trotsky’s time.
But let’s get back to that mass movement. There are only two proven ways to build it: political organizing and democratic persuasion. Tactics, whether violent or peaceful, will emerge from that movement, not from angry Nation readers or advice columnists, no matter how smart each of us may be. If we do build a mass movement big enough to take on the 1 percent, imagine what else we could do. We just don’t know what that will look like yet.
Have a question? Ask Liza here.