Living Out Loud: : Under the Same Roof

Conservative vs. liberal

Sep 28, 2005 at 2:06 pm

"You're what?" asks my mom — then my mother-in-law, then my uncle, then my other uncle.

"It's not like we'll be living together," I say defensively, "We'll be in one apartment, and my dad will be in the other."

"Okay," they say in that "there's obviously no point in trying to talk any sense into you" tone.

It might have worked out if it weren't for the war and the election. See, my dad is a hard-core conservative Catholic. Not one of those "Sunday-morning Catholics" you might have seen holding candlelight peace vigils at the onset of the Iraq War. No, my dad goes to Mass every single day, and his home is a shrine to Jesus with statues, candles, crucifixes and incense (not incense sticks like you buy at the store, but the actual swinging, smoking, golden incense censer you see at church). He is a man who has found the true road to world peace (if all those damned Arabs would just accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior!). As for my husband and I, we are more of the political persuasion of ... well, we're just going straight to hell, let's put it that way.

The two-apartment house we shared with my dad was in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Blue Ash.

Hazelwood is a little pocket of the Blue Ash suburb that leans heavily on the Democratic side of the political scale. Fortunately, my dad didn't ask many questions when we managed to find such a well-priced house in Blue Ash. About a week after we moved in, my husband and I had to bite our lips to keep from grinning when my dad asked if we hadn't noticed that there were an awful lot of black people in the neighborhood. "Hmm, no we hadn't really noticed. Why?"

"Oh, no reason ... "

We had some stuff to tune out — like the religious rants about taking Jesus into our hearts, the "political" rants about the Underground Railroad Freedom Center being a malicious waste of taxpayer money, the time he took 10 pages of incriminating notes (scribbled furiously on loose-leaf notebook paper) on a disgraceful priest who had the audacity to say that Jesus was just a man.

The ultimate difficulty wasn't simply the war or the election; several factors came into play, like the Democratic leaning neighborhood and the fact that our apartment was the one facing the street. These factors prompted my husband and me to put large signs in our window — signs such as, "Where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?" (before the Bush administration admitted that there weren't any) and "Where's Osama?" (before the Bush administration admitted that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11).

So by the time the election rolled around, my husband and I were certain that we had been proven right enough times for my dad to reluctantly step away from the dark side. Surely, not even he could argue with such logic as, "If killing one unborn baby is wrong, then bombing the hell out of a major metropolitan area and killing thousands of civilians must be really wrong." As it turned out, however, logic was no match for faith, and the 2004 presidential election was particularly interesting for us, with two opposing points of view living in the same house.

When it first became obvious that Kerry would win the Democratic nomination, my dad had no idea who he was, so he went on pure intuition: There was just something about Kerry's voice that gave him the creeps. Of course, it didn't take long for Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to help him make a fair and balanced decision.

One day my dad threatened that, if we put a Kerry/Edwards sign in the yard, he would put a Bush/Cheney sign next to it. I loved the idea of two opposing signs in the same yard and thought it would accurately represent the state of our country. (Being an English major, I have a keen eye for symbolism and comedic irony). My dad didn't see the humor, so for the sake of domestic peace, we instituted an all-encompassing ban on political yard displays of any kind.

The arguments weren't limited to politics. One time, while honestly trying to keep within neutral conversational territory, my husband, an archaeology major, was boggling at how incredibly old civilization is. My husband was genuinely confused when my dad started yelling and threw him out of his apartment, because neither of us knew that sometime in the past couple of years my dad had become a hard-core creationist. When I was growing up, my dad was always really into science. He supported the theory of evolution and said that it didn't conflict with the Bible. I honestly don't know when that changed.

Basically, my dad is Archie Bunker, and my husband is Meathead.

Our twin 6-year-old boys didn't help matters. They would commit to memory tidbits of information from each opposing camp and, as young children are wont to do, repeat that information at completely inappropriate times. While out with my father, for instance, if they heard any mention of Bush, they would say something like, "Bush is a bad man. People just like him because he says 'God' all the time." (I was also told by one of their teachers that they had really livened up the first grade political debates.)

But we got a taste of our own medicine when we came out of a Jewish deli one day, and one of them decided to announce that the Jews killed Jesus. Of course, we explained that the Romans killed Jesus and that Jesus was a Jew, but the incident still inflamed our general irritation with my dad.

The election came and went, and like Y2K, the world failed to implode on itself, in spite of dire forecasts to the contrary. Still, the conflicts that divided our house, like those that are dividing the country, are not simply a matter of disagreeing on issues, but disagreeing on the most fundamental definitions of right and wrong. Ultimately, in these heated political times, we certainly need to maintain an open dialogue with people of differing views, but I do not recommend living under the same roof.