Abusers are masterful at the arts of manipulation and destruction. “You’ll never find anyone who loves you as much as I do,” or “you’ll never have it this good again,” they say while dehumanizing, debasing and instilling fear. It’s crushing to experience, or to witness, the loss of safety, dignity and self-worth. Even if abuse has not happened in your or a loved one’s primary relationships at home, it is certainly happening to us, together, on a national scale.
On election night 2016 I said out loud, “Now the country’s going to be in an abusive relationship with that man for the next four years.” And we are. The victim is our nation, and the abuser is our President.
“I am the end-all and be-all,” proclaims our President. “You would be nothing without me, and you will be nothing if I am not reelected to lead you,” he tells us. “No one loves our country as much as I do. No one will do as much for you as I have. Your world will be infinitely scarier if I am not in charge of it.” And on and on, ad nauseum.
Just as with any abusive relationship, the depth of harm is significant. But its corollary is the potential for change. In abusive relationships, if we recognize that we are worth fighting for and rescuing, we can usually escape. It is often in our darkest hour, when the pain is the worst, that we decide: No more; I am done, and I want out.
As we mourn Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and face the eventuality of her replacement by an anti-RBG, we are exactly six weeks from the presidential election. And it is time for us to rise up and say: No more; we are done.
As demonstrated by the women’s marches over the past four years, the BLM and civil rights’ movements, and the federal government’s attack on peaceful protesters across the country, the United States is in the midst of one of the great human rights movements of history. We are at another turning point in this nation’s history, which is why the oppressors and abusers are using voter disenfranchisement, threats, scare tactics, and disinformation to deter us.
Just as abusers often escalate the violence when they know their victim is leaving them, we see that the administration is fomenting and threatening violence as we move toward the election. But violence begets violence; that is its immutable nature. So, our way out of this abusive relationship is not through violence. Instead, nonviolent protest is the only way we can make change.
As much as the administration and its followers want to incite violence, just like the abuser at home or at work, their efforts are borne of fear. Fear of being held accountable, fear of losing the power they are abusing, and fear of equality. Their power comes from instilling fear — including by fomenting violence against women, minorities, and the disadvantaged — while proclaiming their “law and order” agenda. It’s the classic psychopathy of the abuser. Don’t fall for it: Commit to changing the world through words and constructive engagement.
We cannot engage in responsive violence because by doing so we will assuredly lose, including by potentially handing this administration a “justifiable” basis for declaring martial law and preventing or invalidating the election.
We must get out and vote no matter what, and we must get everyone we know — especially young people and those who have been disenfranchised — to vote. We can volunteer our time to “walk precincts” via phone calls, help others get to the polls, join peaceful protests that continue to garner support in cities across the country, and educate our friends and colleagues about the issues at stake in November.
Voting is the greatest act of resistance in which we can engage. Your voices and votes matter — every single one of you, no matter where you live. Do not let the abuser win by convincing you otherwise.