Deride & conquer: the politics of victimization
- 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, âWhy did they beat me?â
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 canât stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We canât
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 wonât; 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 donât 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 donât 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 donât 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 youâve learned, and that you arenât 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 itâs 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 donât 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.
Donât let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (heâll win, not
because heâs 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, âlooseâ, 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, theyâll 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 donât even know they are being hit.
Mel Gilles at 07:31 PM on November 07, 2004
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