This Christmas, we profile people who decided to connect with others who were standing too far away, backs turned, ears shut tight. Theirs was the kind of marriage other couples would be jealous of — until it wasn’t. How were she and Barnes going to go from having one life together to having two separate ones? In 1990, he was pulled over, drunk, with an illegal .44 in the car. Two years later, he had quit the Klan, endured death threats, gone into seclusion. It took years to understand where he’d been, how to get back.
The divisions here take different forms; they are matters of race, politics, family and love. And then they became sure that it never would be again. How do you divide something that is whole, and not end up with two broken halves? He agreed to rehab, planning to finish and get out quick. Addicts both white and black knew who he was and, still, they held him up, loved him. Finally, after nearly dying from stomach disease (eaten up by hate, he says) he decided to go public, help others, apologize for the rest of his life, if need be.
“Slavery still exists, & Nothing has changed.” Another 600 words followed. This all took place a few years back on a Reddit forum called Change My View — a sort of social experiment challenging people to politely change minds on the Internet.
The anonymous author — let’s call the writer “B” — had included footnotes and extensive thoughts on the enduring hideousness of the United States. An impossibility, you might think, and sometimes it is. ” These only provoked another gusher from B, and more arguments, dribbling into long threads of mutual obstinance. “His grandfather was a Chinese indentured servant.” His parents both immigrated to what he grew up believing is a flawed but worthy — and endlessly improving — United States.
In every story, though, the bridge was built by someone who started fresh, listened well, rose above and looked beyond. A tree limb had come crashing down in her front yard, and Angie Lawson did not want to call her husband. But this house — their house, as she’d always called it — was now just her house. Starting on a front porch in Indianola that day nine years ago. It’s Scott.” She stared through bright, ancient eyes and swung the door wide.
For hours, the January snowstorm had been rattling the windows of their Arlington home. A few days before, her husband, Barnes, had packed a bag and moved out. “Baby,” she said as he stepped into her arms, “I always knew you’d come home.” he election results trickled in. Nelson, a Democrat, had already placed a 10-foot-tall sign in their front yard celebrating Hillary Clinton’s expected victory.
Without ever really talking about it, they seemed to make a decision. When his parents passed away, she helped with all the paperwork, working closely with a law firm Barnes had hired to help sort it all out.
He started what he called the long mourning process of coming to terms with the election result.
Nelson and Cunningham have been together for 21 years and have always had political differences. Nelson recoils at Trump’s caustic manner and wonders what it says about the country’s values.
Prison was essentially slavery, after all, and black Americans are “as good as lynched,” even now. He might be in chains today if the country hadn’t progressed.
They went back and forth for half a day, teetering on the brink of the rhetorical tar pit into which so many online discussions sink.
But politics were never what attracted them to each other. They know the country is more divided than ever before, but they hope their relationship can set an example: There are ways to share values, they say, and still hold opposing political views.