Rhetorical Violence and Implied Violence in Modern Politics

Even as the polls are closing and the grim results are pouring in, I am feeling a deep sense of relief that this is almost over. I am tired of violence of this election. That is the source of the most anxiety for me – the violence. The thing that startled me the most wasn’t Trump – it was the implicit violence from people who were, to me, supposed to be safe. The liberals. The democrats.

As many of you know, I am a survivor of abuse. As a survivor, I am perhaps more sensitive to the hysterical, mindless, hateful rhetoric I have seen on both sides of this election cycle. I don’t mean that to say I’m not rational, since I developed early on the survival technique of mentally distancing myself from stressful situations. I save the data, to be unpacked and analyzed at a later time. I think that particular tool has helped be the person I am today – imperfect, but trying.

We are all accountable for our our words and our actions – none more so than those who believe that they hold the moral high ground when they threaten, intimidate, or otherwise intimate that those who vote or think differently *deserve* violence.

Ask yourself this, before you engage in this line of reasoning or rhetoric (i.e. that someone who doesn’t support Trump or HRC deserves violence):

Have you ever had your head slammed into walls, refrigerators, or doors, because you stood up to a figure more powerful than you?  Have you ever found yourself locked in the bottom section of a linen closet, barely able to kneel on hands-and-knees, for hours on end, because you looked at someone the wrong way? Have you found yourself, sobbing on the floor, drenched in your own urine, as you apologize to the person who had just punched you so hard they took your feet out from under you, then kicked your prone body until your back was against the wall? Have you?

Have you sat with a teddy bear in the closet, under the table, or under the bed, listening to the sounds of your mother being beaten, the sound of her  screams forever imprinted on your mind as the thud of the blows land, telling yourself over and over and over again,

Don’t look. Don’t look. It’s not real, so long as you don’t look.

Because I have. That is my story. Those are my memories and my history. I know what it’s like to look in the face of the person who’s supposed to be my protector, my voice, and see a raised fist. I know what it’s like to talk to someone who will not listen, but I also know what it’s like to look away and pretend things aren’t happening. I saw it when my neighbors trusted my well-spoken father over my emotionally wrought and abused mother. It is comfortable and easier to pretend that what we hold as true, holds as true for everyone else.  I liked believing my father when he said it would never happen again. I liked the hugs and love I received shortly after, that made me feel like maybe this time he meant it.

When I see people who say mindlessly that it’s folks’ privilege that enables them to vote for a third party candidate, rather than HRC or Trump, and they deserve to be beaten or shot, or to have their faces punched with the “red white and blue”, I am beyond dumbfounded. I am sickened. I’d like to say that I’m shocked, but I can’t be shocked anymore.

My father, a prison guard (former policeman) laughed as he casually discussed his hope that a prisoner would escape so he could shoot them. The wistfulness in his voice was terrifying. Later, when a prostitute approached my mom and told her, fearfully, about being harassed by my father, she was surprised when my mom embraced her, as they wept together, united in the truth that only they knew.

I can tell you, I do not hold any single person, let alone the small percentage of people who chose to vote third party, accountable for this election, however it goes.  You’re angry about something? Stop blaming the small minority who are powerless, voting for someone they believe in, however far away the dream may be.  You want to hold someone accountable? Look at the way our media has allowed this to happen, and how we have enabled it. We have allowed our hysteria to feed a propaganda machine time and again, and we let this happen. Hold the DNC accountable for its inherent bias. Hold the corporations accountable. Hold our government accountable. And, we should always hold ourselves accountable. Were we a light in this darkness? Did we provide hope, did we encourage dialogue, or did we use shame and fear-mongering?  Guess which one of these lines of rhetoric leads to enlightened societies? And guess which one leads down dark and terrible paths?

Or is this, in your view, how things should be?  If so, you may be stuck in a mind-set called “victim-blaming”. If you’re so overcome by the failure of certain people to bow before you that you want to do violence to them, are they *really* the problem?

The answer, as I see it, is no. If normally rational people are giving in to mob mentality, then there’s something wrong. To both sides: Stop the bullying tactics. Stop letting hysteria guide you and remember that everyone is a human being here. Are you finding that the supposed news is feeding that hysteria, feeding your desire to hurt people? Turn it off. It’s no longer a source of information or enlightenment. Go outside, and talk to your neighbor. Talk to the one with the Trump sign. You may not change anything, but you just might start to realize that they’re people, too. And they’re just as afraid as you.

When we let our politics descend into a “good vs. evil” we are dangerously close to a very dark and perilous times.

You can call it a protest vote if you want, but if you look at the people out there, the ones who are engaging in a “protest” vote – those people are the minority. I have seen folks called cowards, endure threats of death, violence, and other forms vitriol for voting for a third party, and, frankly, it’s disgusting.

They, like me, are the ones who are voiceless in a system that doesn’t represent them, surrounded by people who are comfortable in their bubbles of privilege, who sit behind computers and in their couches and yell their observations, without taking a step out of their comfort zone to see what it means to be different.

You can’t control other people, but you can control yourself. You can control your voice. You can control your temper. You can control what you read, what you watch, and how it makes you feel. You can understand that peoples’ views and priorities are different, and that it may not result from privilege or ignorance. It could be that they are tired of seeing the death and destruction in the Middle East; tired of reading the reports by WHO of the millions of people starving due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen;  tired of watching the videos of Yemenese children asking why the U.S. hates them so much that we are starving and bombing them (since the children don’t understand that we just sell the bombs, and our ally does the bombing); tired of the people who (desiring immediate answers) pursue war over peace and are willing to commit atrocities, without repercussions, under the guise of human rights, while ensuring devastation.

I am just tired of the violence.

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3 thoughts on “Rhetorical Violence and Implied Violence in Modern Politics

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