Strange Bedfellows

We met in January of 2015 and our son was born in May 2016. Our biggest fight was the day after the 2016 presidential election. I called him a racist (at least that’s what he heard) and he committed not to talk about politics with me again. “Really!? I screamed, “Coward!” I thought.

I looked at him and felt bad. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I feel very passionate about this.” “Yeah.” He said, “passionate is a good word to describe it.”

How could this man have voted for Trump?

Even when I baited him, he avoided talking with me about (presidential) politics. Until the lock-down.

But for nearly 4 years, I was on high alert. Given my bedfellow’s explanation for our differing opinions (“It’s the media!”) and my befuddlement concerning his (and many other people’s) choice in the election, I began to notice things in my limited media consumption (we don’t have cable TV and I don’t twitter).

A half-assed academic, mother, variously teaching 3 courses for hire as an adjunct, proctoring tests for hourly wages, authoring textbook questions as an independent contractor and teaching yoga on the side, I had short but regular commutes to listen to National Public Radio (NPR). Not long after the election, they reported that the president was enacting protectionist policies that would hurt The Economy. He was pulling out from international trade agreements that his democrat predecessors had supported. Interesting, I thought. Most lefties in my circle opposed those neoliberal institutions. Maybe at least this is a good thing? I wondered what my academic friends would think of it. NPR reported the moves as backward and threatening to American farmers and The Economy.

I hated Trump. He was a symbol of capitalist greed. But, the left seemed to be moving full swing in the other direction. Now NAFTA is good? I brought up the protectionist policies with an French academic friend of mine who was teaching at Brown. Her passionate response: “But he’s doing that for the purpose of American hegemony!”

My former roommate who lives in a black neighborhood in Baltimore visited shortly after the election. She said her neighbors “think Trump is literally involved with the KKK.” “Do you think he is?” I asked. “I don’t know but he definitely sucks.”

Democrats began calling for impeachment. NPR reported the “intelligence community” was at odds with the president. Since when does NPR, or anyone on the left call the CIA or the FBI a “community?”

The bedfellow was silent on the topic.

In contrast, my students brought most any question back to the president. Inequality, racism, climate change, colonialism? Trump. If any of them supported the president, they wouldn’t dare admit it. I tried to invite perspectives from the right but it was dangerous territory. My own bedfellow wouldn’t talk to me about the president, why would my students?

It reminded me of climate change debates of the past. I’ve been teaching for 14 years. This was the first year there seemed to be a genuine consensus among the students. Only their parents doubted the threat of anthropogenic climate change. Today, students in their late teens / early 20’s don’t question climate change. –But before when they did, they were shamed for disagreeing with science. Among colleagues and friends, I was fearful to voice my skepticism of global climate change narratives which stemmed from questions concerning the methodology of models generating numbers forward and back thousands of years. I think of myself as a hard core environmentalist but the dominant climate change narrative (along with the dominant narrative on overpopulation) was too apocalyptic for me.

Since when is there a ‘consensus’ of scientists? I know how hard consensus is to achieve, even in a small co-op! Don’t get me started on ‘over-population’–the subject I tried to deconstruct/teach and failed so many times…

I hated Trump, why would I care if his supporters had space to share that view in my class? I guess I wanted open debate in my classes. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they couldn’t speak. Also, I love learning from my students and I love it when they learn from each other. The same principal applies in my household. I love a good debate that helps me understand another person’s view. Unfortunately, the patriarch of my household refused to share his perspective.

There was also a ‘consensus’ about the president among the ladies in my knitting group. They were angry about the outcome of the election and very vocal about it. I was knitting a pussy hat (to be worn at the Women’s March that I couldn’t go to with the baby). The pattern was easy.

Amid the ranting, two of the women were quiet. I thought they might have supported the president.

I asked my ranting friends, “Don’t you wonder why a decent person would vote for him?” They looked at me horrified. Clearly, no decent person could have voted for the president.

I admitted my bedfellow’s secret.

“Janelle, I wouldn’t have guessed you…” The wealthiest, most beautiful elder of the group interrupted, “I told Randy, [her husband] I would divorce him if he voted for Trump.”

When I told the bedfellow, he laughed, “That’s the silent majority!”

I had been on the visiting and adjunct market since earning my PhD in 2011 and my work was insecure and poorly compensated. In the fall of 2019, I quit my staple courses and contract work and invested everything I had (and more) into opening a small yoga studio.

Fast forward to coronavirus:

I closed the studio on March 16th (a full week before the official shutdown) because I was sick.

I didn’t want to close but I really couldn’t teach sick and the other teachers were already quarantined. I thought we’d open up in a few days, maybe a week or two. The university extended its spring break.

My son’s preschool closed on the 17th. I know it was the 17th because that was supposed to be our day (bedfellow and mine), off from work together without our son, really the first we’d had… since he was born.

No daylong holiday for us!

Bedfellow works from home. –And work was exploding (he works in IT and companies were scrambling to get employees online from home and the trucking company was scrambling with cancelled orders…).

I took Julian (who was three) to the grocery store that day, He ran around and touched everything. As elders smiled at him adoringly, I thought, omg, the plague is already here and I’m a carrier. –And, we need beans and root vegetables.

I met a lefty friend in one of the aisles (a collective worker who lives off the grid in a tiny house). Not knowing it was mine, she made fun of the contents of my cart that was about 20 feet away. It was filled with 4 12-packs of Diet Coke. “That’s for Kris.” I said, understanding but embarrassed.

This is the man that I love. He voted for Trump and he drinks diet Coke.

I wouldn’t be back in the grocery store until May. Coronavirus…

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