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The Politics of Victimization
[Mel Gilles, who has worked for many years as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, draws some parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to the election.-- Mathew Gross]
Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the new language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
They will tell you, every single day.
The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.
As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).
And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See them cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.
How to break free? Again, the answer is
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 56 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.
Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: stop responding to the abuser. Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it failproof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, "loose", irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education. And they don't even know they are being hit.
- - - - - - - - Mel Gilles at 07:31 PM on November 07, 2004
Mathew Gross Deride and Conquer
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============================= Comments on The Politics of Victimization
Speaking as a Shrink:
Yes, political abuse has occurred. But NEVER define yourself as a victim. Once you define yourself as a victim that becomes your identity.
Define yourself as a survivor!
The truth is that bush did not win over a majority of citizens. He only won a majority of voters, those allowed to vote, those whose votes were counted.
We are not a minority. We, along with many Americans who stayed away from the polls or who were not permitted to vote or who did not have their votes counted (accurately), we are the majority.
The current and future administration will try to claim a mantel, which is not theirs to claim. And we can refuse to recognize what they claim.
Despots are very dependent on a population, which accepts the yoke of authority. Sadly, many fundamentalists yearn for authority. And our independence enrages both the supporters and the purveyors of despotism (abuse in your parlance).
It is our civic duty to stand up and find language, which accurately frames what is occurring at the highest levels of government as well as what the grassroots patriots stand for. Many of us are not wallowing in self-pity at all. We are standing up for what we believe. Here is some of our thinking:
We can tie a lot together with the concept of "civic virtue."
A. Eldercare. It's a virtue. Anything less is a vice. (goes for medicare or social security)
B. Budget Deficit? Financial heresy. Civic Virtue? Financial integrity.
C. Blessed are the Peacekeepers. War is an abomination.
D. Conservation is a virtue. Desecration is a vice.
E. Voting by the "Golden Rule." Virtue counts. Vice does not.
Posted by Mary Ann at November 7, 2004