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Deride & conquer: the politics of victimization

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  • Aniruddha Das
    Deride and Conquer The Politics of Victimization [By: Mel Gilles, who has worked for many years as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, draws some
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2004
      Deride and Conquer

      The Politics of Victimization

      [By: 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.]

      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
      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
      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 quite simple.
      First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of
      affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and
      everyone around you that is being victimized. You don’t do this by
      responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in
      logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You
      also don’t do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your
      ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring
      its over faster and hurts less is you don’t resist and fight back.
      Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 56 million of
      them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them
      what you’ve learned, and that you aren’t going to take it anymore. You
      stand tall, with 56 million people at your side and behind you, and you
      look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then
      you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you,
      and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it’s better than the
      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

      Aniruddha Das
      Center for Neurobiology and Behavior
      Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons
      1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 87, Kolb Annex Rm 563
      New York, NY 10032-2695

      ph: 212 543-6931 x 200
      fax: 212 543-5816
      e-mail: ad2069@...
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