Spousal Abuse as American Governmental Policy
The premise I’m about to build upon is not mine. It came about during a conversation with a dear Brit friend of mine, Clair Le Couteur. He and I were musing over the commonalities between what’s happening politically in both Britain and America.
“It confounds me,” I admitted. “I have no idea why practical-minded citizens should so consistently and overwhelmingly vote against their own interests.”
“Simple,” said he. “It precisely mirrors spousal abuse. The victims blame themselves and when the police roll by, everything is fine again and they stand by their abuser, arms around each other until the next time—and there is always a next time.”
“By god, I think you’ve nailed it, Clair. Can I use that?”
“Be my guest. Please try to spell my name properly, as you are often careless in that regard.”
We have (we Brits and Americans) been increasingly victims of spousal abuse since the nearly simultaneous elections of Ronald Reagan (1981) and Margaret Thatcher (1979). Thus we have been abused by our governments for nearly forty years. Two entire generations of the most closely allied nations on the face of the earth have, for the most part, no living memory of postwar America and Britain.
I totally missed Claire’s point because I have a memory that spans those decades and it blinded me to the political reality for nearly everyone under the age of fifty or so. That’s not only two-thirds of our American population, but the majority of those who are politically active at the moment.
The two old farts grumbling on a park bench about the ‘good old days’ may be favored by cartoonists and possibly even correct, but they’re entirely irrelevant.
In exactly the same manner as children raised in abusive families, those under fifty in both nations know and have experienced no other lives, no other possibilities and perhaps more devastatingly, no reasonable expectation of alternative outcomes.
I’m not a young man, having stumbled through life in part or all of nine decades, so it’s perhaps understandable that Claire’s clarity caught me a bit by surprise. (Claire’s Clarity; now that rolled off the keyboard rather elegantly—I may have to write a book of that title)
I had, after all, been in business in those luxurious decades of the fifties, sixties and seventies, when everyone paid their share of taxes, millionaires were abundant but no one yet had met (or even heard of) a billionaire and life was pretty much a foretold conclusion. You worked, you did well and your children were expected to do better.
That was true then at nearly every level of society and, miracle of miracles, they did do better. The top tax rate was 92%, but of course we accepted that, because we got a country that worked pretty well in return.
But then the abuse began. Reagan busted the unions and of course wages dropped in response. Jobs began to migrate to China and India, but that was our fault because we were just too damned expensive. We were sorry, we really were and would try harder next time, just please stop bloodying our noses. Reagan promised he would re-holster his billy club and we believed him, washing the blood out of our shirts and smiling bravely.
Then stuff began to get so expensive, but that was our fault too and if we really cared about America, we would work a second job and, now that the kids were older, Mom could probably chip in as well. If we really wanted our own home and expected our kids to go to college, it was a small price to pay.
That was about the time of the great mergers and companies began to claim the only way they could survive was to sell out to larger companies. This too was our fault, because even with the pay cuts we’d been taking, we were still too damned expensive. Whole industries merged and many of them left town. It was complicated, but somehow the promised pensions disappeared and maybe the government would make them good, but maybe not. We were scared.
Families broke up, Dads drank too much and Moms were often found silently weeping in the kitchen. It would be okay. Wash your face and put some makeup over that eye. Dad didn’t really mean it, he loves you and it will be okay.
Well of course it was not and is not and will not be, but the abuser rages through the house and we keep our heads down, hoping for better days.
No one expected the abuser to turn out to be our own government.
But it’s true and now the poorest among us are being shot dead in the streets. It’s their fault for not being obedient.
Small towns in America are practicing a new sport called civil asset forfeiture, where they stop your usually out-of-state car for a minor infringement (maybe even a dreamed-up one) as it passes through town and confiscate everything you have, including the car. To get back your property, you must prove it was not involved in criminal activity. Now Americans must prove themselves not guilty instead of the law holding the burden of proof, as Jon Oliver explains. The Constitution will not protect you if you are the victim of your own government.
The Supreme Court, ostensibly your Supreme Court, decided that corporations are people. Those merged-and-moved-on outfits that trashed both your job and your pension are now your equal and enjoy all the rights you were once entitled to. That includes the ability to buy your Senator or Representative with unlimited money when they need a favor in Congress.
As for schools, roads, bridges and other aspects of America’s once-proud infrastructure, the government, your government, apologizes but it can’t help you there because 52% of your taxes must go to the military. It further apologizes that the most expensive military in the world by a factor of six hasn’t been able to win a war since WWII.
But your friendly recruiter will be more than happy to take your son or daughter if they’re desperate enough or poor enough to join. Just don’t expect the VA to help much on their return.
How can your government abuse you? Let me count the ways: Privatizing industries that include banks and investment houses and then socializing the costs when they bet it all at Vegas and go broke.
Briefly, its your pension fund that disappears, you lose your house, your kids have to come home from university, your healthcare is gone (along with your job) and the government that has been bloodying your nose rides in like the cavalry to save them—the banks and investment houses. That’s because they are too big to fail and you are too small to be bothered with.
If any or all of the above seems unfair and you wonder why and how you as a citizen have become so unimportant, it was not by accident. In most countries (and many of those we most highly criticize) rampant bribery and fraud are both against the law and out of control.
America does not have bribery and fraud in government.
We would not stand for such a thing. We are not Angola or Russia, for god’s sake. We are certainly not China. Our American Congress has seen fit to attend to such things by the force of law. Ours is a nation based on laws, as must be obvious if you have read this far.
In their solemn deliberation and with all due respect for the consequences, both present and future, both Houses of Congress passed laws making it legal (and profitable) for lobbyists to shower money on the very legislators that have their corporate interests under advisement.
Do we live in a great country or what?
To successfully argue the claim that a nation is a serial abuser of its citizens, parallels must be drawn. Abusers have several commonalities and classic abuse generally follows three stages:
1. The tension building phase—Tension builds over common domestic issues like unemployment, wage issues, housing, healthcare and immigration. Verbal abuse begins, usually on both sides and often taking root in social media and the corporate-controlled print and broadcast outlets. The hapless citizen tries to control the situation by putting his or her faith in abuser promises (America Needs a Change, Kinder, Gentler Nation) either giving in or banking on futures. None of this works, of course, even over multiple election cycles. Eventually, the tension reaches a boiling point and physical abuse begins.
2. Acute battering episodes—When the tension peaks, the physical violence begins, usually triggered by an external event such as a riot, terrorist event or a first-class scandal—but not in a predictable sequence. This means the start of the battering episode is unpredictable and beyond the victim’s control. Bad shit happens, headline material that may last for weeks or even months, but the tension is eventually released and the honeymoon phase begins. The victim not only supports, but admires the abuser.
3. The honeymoon phase—This often follows a change in party. First, the incoming abuser is ashamed of his predecessor abuser’s behavior. He (or she) expresses remorse, tries to minimize the abuse and might even blame it on the abused (Why didn’t you say something?). Early days bring apologies, generosity and helpfulness. These abuses will not happen again. Contrition strengthens the bond of government and, once again, suggests to the victim that leaving the relationship is not essential.
Repeat as necessary for at least a couple of generations, throw in a few wars and a couple of recessions to muddy the waters, allow the gap between those who serve and those who eat to widen and bingo—the Thatcher-Reagan years finally enable the Trump-Mays dysfunctional governments. And ain’t that a shame? But it proves out a quote by a former president . . .
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.