Reading true-crime stories (yes, one of my secret vices), I’m repeatedly struck by the way victims are often complicit in the horrors committed against them.
I’m not talking about the woman who takes a strange man home from a bar or the family that fails to lock its doors when a burglar is on the loose (though them, too). I’m talking about victims who feel personal loyalty to “friends,” relations, leaders, and professionals who are doing them obvious harm.
Or the followers of a preacher who’s degrading and controlling them for his own sick benefit. Jeffs. Jones. Creffield. The horror stories go back at least to the middle ages and more likely to the dawn of human time.
I’m talking about people who repeatedly believe obvious, manipulative sociopathic liars. (The link is to a Joseph Wambaugh book that details one of the creepiest examples of manipulation and self-deception I’ve ever read about. But obviously it’s just one example of thousands.)
Or those who are being abused by a family family member and not only won’t leave, but stick up for and serve the abuser, even to the point where said brute finally and fatally discards them.
Or those who, under the influence of abusers and manipulators, become horrific criminals themselves, committing acts they never would have dreamed of before being captured in the orbit of a Manson or a Bernardo.
I know that some of this behavior is “understood” by psychologists — if being understood means it’s been studied and analyzed. Stockholm syndrome. Brainwashing techniques. Prey on the vulnerable. Isolate them. Control everything about their environment. Feed them very little and that mostly crap. Tell them they’re bad (sinful, sick, stupid, weak, fat, ugly) and that you and you alone can save them from themselves. Pressure them gradually into committing acts that violate their morality … and you’ve got them.
I know there are sometimes good reasons people don’t just up and leave; e.g. abused family members are most likely to be murdered once they try, or even seriously threaten, to get out. I don’t think most seemingly willing victims deserve as much blame as we sometimes heap on them — at least not until/unless they become perpetrators themselves.
But can anybody who hasn’t been through it actually understand it? And, I wonder, can even most of those who have endured and survived understand it? Don’t their own psychological vulnerabilities (and the sheer human tendency to go on making excuses for our own behavior) usually prevent surviving victims from fully seeing their part in the disaster? How many victims of crazy preachers turn right around and look for some other wild, dominating church? How many men and women keep falling into the same sick relationships?
A mild version of this willing victimhood happened in my own family, as I’ve mentioned before. Two people being swindled refused even to look at documentation of the swindle solely because they had always trusted the crook, had less trust for the accusers, and did not want to change their minds. I long ago made peace with the fact that this crazy willing victimhood did happen. But understand it? Never. Decades later, it still seems surreal and incomprehensible.
Which brings us to politics. I’m far from the first person to note that living under bad government (yes, okay, that ultimately means all government, though some are still one hell of a lot worse than others) is like living with an abuser. And that’s true right down to all the excuses people make for the abusers. All the support people give to those who harm them. All the irrational belief that the abuser knows all, can achieve all, should be respected and followed. Especially all the false hopes that if we just change our behavior (that is, our v*te, our activism, our contributions), everything will eventually get better. “We,” meaning most supposedly adult v*ters display all the symptoms of willing victims– even as matters get worse and worse.
Some people blame those who still have hopes for “the system.” And absolutely, each of us is 100% responsible for his or her own actions. But we did not create the governmental abuser.
We were isolated from childhood — in government schools, in a culture that constantly told us we were in the freest and best nation on earth and that we owed absolute loyalty to the government that provided us with that freedom. We were controlled. We ate only the food and used only the substances our abuser approved (or faced punishment for doing otherwise). We’re constantly told our leaders know best and that in fact we’re so stupid (or so dangerous) that we’re not even entitled to know the information on which said leaders are basing their decisions. “Our” leaders send millions of our fellow citizens off to obey any dictates of its whims, even if those dictates violate their own good judgment and moral code.
I could go on. The whole system is designed for submission and abuse. That’s obvious to anybody who finally dares step outside of it and get a clear look. But stepping outside the abusive system alone does not end the abuser. And staying inside the system for protection or out of hope does not make people evil or give them primary responsibility for the abuse. Yes, we are all responsible for our own actions. Yes, it’s good that millions are finally recognizing how rotten the system is and are trying, in one way or another, to flee it or bring it down.
But the abuse exists aside from any hopeful little individual v*tes we cast or campaign signs we hammer into our lawns or false hopes we hold in our hearts.
Which brings us to Donald Trump. The man who, with the help of millions of hopeful little v*ters, is kicking the establishment in its self-satisfied backside.
That the establishment is being kicked is great, of course. It’s a wonderful, flamboyant show, better than pro wrestling.
What scares me is that there are people out there — freedomistas who really ought to know better — who think because Trump is kicking bad-guy ass that somehow makes him a good guy, even a guy good enough to deserve support from libertarians and other freemarketeers.
I give you the hair-raisingly sickening (though also astonishingly thin) arguments of Walter Block. Like Joel, from whom I stole the link, I can scarcely bring myself to read through Block’s absurdities. It’s impossible, prima facie, that a politician who wants to build a wall on the border, force private companies to betray their customers for the benefit of government snoops, and use every cronyist government benefit he can (eminent domain, anyone?) deserves freedomista support. And that’s without even delving into his ever-shifting policies on guns and other issues. Not to mention that Trump’s an autocratic egomaniac who has no idea what he’s doing (that description fits nearly every presidential politician, even if most hide it better).
Should Trump become president (which I doubt, but you never know), I’d be tempted to say, “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.” But that’s not quite true. Trump is the kind of boss people get when they’re desperate for saviors. When they uncritically fall for any preacher-profit-rebel-leader who promises salvation. The kind who, because of the acclaim stroking his ego, feels entitled to rule by charisma and diktat alone. He’s one who rises out of chaos, presides over chaos, creates further chaos, then demands Order, Order, Order to resolve the chaos. Trump’s nothing really new and unusual. Trump’s just the type of “leader” who takes advantage of moments like this.
When you live long enough or read enough history, you realize that once in a while the peasants demand “change” and are treated to a hearty show of it. But the abusive establishment always reasserts itself. And in part that’s able to happen because the “savior” people look to turns out worse than the merely corrupt, tired, boring, predictable establishment he claimed to oppose.
The establishment returns and — until some critical mass is achieved at some later date — and when the establishment returns, it cracks down. Oh, it may hand out a few benefits, but in the long-run, it toughens it’s control. The peasants got uppity, you see. “We” challenged their rule. “We” tried to assert ourselves, however wrongheadedly. “We” must be put in our place. “We” must be shown the error of our ways.
No matter who triumphs in November: Meet the new furiously florid face of the abuser; ultimately much worse than the old face.
Of course, all this ultimately leads to more people seeing that face for what it really is. Not the visage of kindly Uncle Sam, not the philosophical face of some wise and mythical government of the free. But the eye-bulging mien of every maniacal preacher, the red face of every reeling drunken father wielding a belt, the falsely smiling face of every conniving con artist milking her victims for all she can before killing them.
It’s healthy to recognize the reality, of course. But trying to leave the abuser presents a whole new level of danger.
And for the one or two of you who don’t already know it, v*ting for Donald Trump isn’t even making a sincere attempt to leave the abuser. It’s just v*ting for a different kind of abuse.