My husband and I just celebrated our 17th anniversary a couple of weeks ago. In our marriage we have what we call “discussions,” which is a pleasant way of saying we disagree and need to hash it out. In the past few months our “discussions” have been more frequent and more argumentative than they typically are.
We discuss masks. We discuss statistics. We discuss how best to operate our lives during a pandemic. We discuss how to support Black lives. We discuss police support/reform. We discuss the way family members are discussing these topics.
And we agree about very little of it.
Does that sound familiar? Like maybe how our country is operating right now?
The truth simply is, we’ve been married a while, and we disagree. It’s not that we don’t believe in the same things. At our core we really do. We wouldn’t have gotten married if we hadn’t. But we often disagree about the course of action we should take concerning those beliefs.
We’re trying to figure out how we celebrate Independence Day this year. (Blessedly not a source of a “discussion,” but give us time. The Fourth isn’t over yet.)
We could really use a big, unifying event like a parade with marching bands. Or craft booths with tie-dyed t-shirts and towels. Or fried food. Or a battle of the bands with some local flavor. Or a car show lined up along Main Street with hoods up and underparts gleaming in the July sun. Something, anything to help us have the tangible experience where we are part of something bigger than ourselves and the media we consume.
Those community events have all been canceled. It’s been a good opportunity to examine what we’re celebrating exactly. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 was just the beginning. And the work isn’t done. The American dream is something I still believe in. For everyone.
While I’m airing the dirty laundry, let me tell you another thing about my marriage. We’re pretty experienced at reconciliation too. I got a text from my husband the other day after an intense “discussion” asking me, “How can I help us have better conversations?” My reply was that he should always agree with me and bring me chocolate.
We laughed, and that was it. The “discussion” was no longer a wedge between us and we were back on track, even finding common ground to agree on while recognizing that we feel differently. And it was truly okay.
Our nation is hurting right now. We desperately need some healing. But someone has to be the first to reach out, to acknowledge that we don’t actually want to do this alone. That we can’t do it alone. Because it’s not the American dream if some of us don’t have the same opportunities as the rest.
Our celebrations this year as a family are not a blind declaration of how awesome our country is. Just like I’m not touting how awesome my marriage is. Sometimes it is amazing. Sometimes we get this thing really right. And sometimes we fall short. But the dream is still there. That’s a beautiful thing. As long as we’re willing, we get to try again.
So we apologize, recognize that our differences don’t have to break the country up, and learn how to live with those differences. We live under the same roof. We eat from the same table. We find common ground.
Let us all give room and space for people to think differently. We may have to apologize. We may have to curb our passionate opinions to allow room for others to have their opinions too. If we’re very brave, we can be the first to reach out to others who don’t agree with us. And maybe we’ll experience the beauty of our fellow Americans reaching back.
It turns out that the American dream is a pretty big one. There’s room for all of us. And it’s going to take all of us to get it right.