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A house divided


I grew up in a harmonious home.

My parents — high-school sweethearts — are still together after 34 years of marriage, and they basically blanketed my sister and me with love and support.

But in the past 10 years a seam of disunity has been sewn into the fabric of the family.

I don’t know when exactly this dichotomy, this division, this partisanship came into existence.

What I know is that at some point politics began to infiltrate the domestic bliss at my parents’ modest home with a jolly saboteur’s desire for mischief.

Without getting specific — after all, if home is where they have to take you in, it might not be the place where they have to prepare your favorite meal — one parent skews left and the other right.

It wasn’t always this way. They both used to be pretty moderate, as far as I could tell. Politics wasn’t a major topic of discussion at our house.

I don’t know whether it was the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or my boy-crazy sister’s string of hormone-addled suitors, but something changed.

If I had to pin it on a particular set of circumstances, I would go back to the summer of 2007.

The Democrats in Congress were protesting the war in Iraq by threatening to cut funding for the military. As fate would have it, I was in Iraq at the time as a Marine.

My hunch is that one of my progenitors, out of some globalized protective instinct, began to sour on the Democrats and watch an inordinate amount of Fox News late into the night.

At approximately the same time, the other guardian turned left to find enough compassion to avoid the serious prison time associated with the throttling of one of my sister’s wayward paramours.

Of course, that’s just my interpretation.

Neither of my parents confesses any bias. But my sister and I know differently. We’ve seen the popcorn fly.

After 34 years of marriage, perhaps a little friction is necessary to keep the chemistry going.

But things are still pretty normal. Bills get paid on time, and an agreement to avoid watching the news together apparently eases any household tensions that might build.

I don’t know whether things get easier in a marriage over time. They might get more difficult.

Maybe that’s what’s happening in Congress. On Monday, the 14th day of a federal government shutdown that has threatened everything from national parks to veterans benefits, Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell hinted that they were close to a deal that would reopen the government before the Thursday deadline on raising the debt ceiling.

I know that 237 years of baggage is a lot to work through under emotional duress. But if my parents can figure it out, I’m sure Congress can find a way.

And as far as keeping the flame alive, there will always be something to fight about.

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