By BILL GRAY
Mt. Pleasant News
I got married 38 years ago today, which is in fair proximity to Independence Day.
Anyone with marriage in their life?s portfolio may detect some irony to the juxtaposition of ?Independence Day? and ?marriage.? And yet, when you think about it, the independence of the United States of America only works if we make it a good marriage.
When I got married, I was going to be the best, most enlightened husband conceivable. This was the 1970s, so being enlightened was a big thing. There were many who thought they were enlightened by simply living together as couples ? or threesomes, foursomes, communes ? but that appears to be a little too much to have held together past the 70s, let alone for nearly four decades.
So I?m a great, enlightened husband? Wellll . . . yeah, but not in the ways I thought I would be. You see, I started out thinking I knew how to make marriage work in a ?new age? where everything was handled on equal terms. We both would be completely honest with each other, and we both would respect each other?s individual freedoms.
OK. I?ll create this paragraph as a ?pausing mechanism? so that veterans of marriage can stop laughing and catch their collective breath.
Those that have been there, I confess: Yes, I was stupid enough to believe that about myself. I learned, soon enough, thank goodness, how wrong I was. Marriage isn?t about cold 50-50 calculations in a set of ledger books
It?s about adapting. (Some of us have to learn to accept the other one is a loudmouth, for example.) It?s about tolerance. (Some of us have to learn to live with the other who always seems to want to stay up a little bit later than he should.) It?s about caring and respect. (Some of us have to learn to at least not moan when the other?s favorite country music is playing.)
You get the idea. I became enlightened about my need to do what it takes to get along and go forward in my marriage. So here comes the segue:
In the United States, more so than any country in history, getting along and making things work between disparate peoples has been absolutely essential to our success. That we can?t seem to get along at a number of fundamental levels of national leadership at present threatens that success.
I saw an interview once with Rodney King, the unfortunate Los Angeles motorist who was beaten about a generation ago in a racially motivated police action. King, who died this month, often was ridiculed for his simplistic reaction to his fate:
?Why can?t we all just get along??
Yet King said in that interview that if he was remembered in history because of that quote, that would be all right. I think he and I are thinking along the same track: If we don?t all try to get along, it?s all going to fall apart.
I?ve heard some suggestions recently that we should reinstitute The Draft ? the system that required most young men to serve in the Armed Forces in times of war. If done comprehensively, it just might force more of us to face our differences and find ways to get along.
Look how well this works in the outstanding Iowa Wesleyan College Service Learning program. Pretty good example of a marriage of IWC?s education principles, its students and our communities, yes?
Could a national service learning program save our national ?marriage??