Abuse Is Always in the Name of Love

Mitt Romney’s latest ploy is to pretend he is Barack Obama. For the past month, he has tried to walk in the President’s footsteps, in a brazen attempt to broaden his appeal. That ploy is a word-thin disguise to attract undecided voters and disgruntled Democrats to his radical-right positions on health, taxes, and women’s rights that these groups would normally reject.

If America accepts such a naked, transparent deceit, it has become an abuse victim, a country willing to ignore reality, past history and bad decisions, to willingly put itself at-risk by embracing all the wrong done in the name of a love for America.  What kind of people try to stop the abuse by reuniting with its perpetrators? Especially when the threats to safety and security never stopped, but in the classic fashion of abusers, have increased, becoming more distorted, domineering and shrill?

In fact, Romney wants to deny the abuse and put it on Obama, the blame-shifting that is the hallmark of dysfunction. Fault is always on somebody else. The interior narrative goes, “My errors, of which there are none, were made in good faith. Can’t you see my desire and devotion? And I have to be this way because of what happened.” Abusers rearrange the details of history to fit a narrative of good and evil that distorts and conceals truth and freedom. So the slaps and screams, the seething anger, the spontaneous rage, the stripping away of dignity, the shredding of self-worth, the putdowns and retorts, the demeaning language breaks the victim’s will.

Some in America have brought into the blame-shift. Victims beget victims. Their experience of abuse becomes a template. It recreates itself and perpetuates itself when it hits a tipping point. I have seen this with inner city crack epidemics in eastern cities; an out of control dysfunctionalism that altered the social fabric and changed the arc of success put in place by previous generations. I can tell you that healthy common sense is hard to recover for people conditioned to thinking abuse is a way of life.

When the blue collar worker only feels trapped by his or her insufficiency, alienated from their dreams, stuck in dead ends without progress, and income inequity soars, entire generations become victims. They stay because their suffering takes on an institutional character, a familiar certainty that is the underpinning of their lives, making it hard to admit that all the effort and energy used to withstand the abuse, was, in fact, misplaced.

And that’s the subtext of Romney’s message; not that the economy or health care or the environment will be better, not that more jobs will be restored, but that the old familiar abuse with all of its familiar empty promises will return. It’s abuse seduction. You will feel better with that first slap. He wants to bring back that misaligned comfort zone that abusers and victims crave. The appeal of a toxic stew where everything is somebody else’s fault and hopelessness is a base instinct because it’s just too hard to do better.

So his campaign is a textbook case of the politics of abuse. It has a myriad of dynamics: race, wealth, cliches, myths, and simple disproved lies that it retells, especially when they have been called out. Tuesday morning after the debate, Romney’s campaign recycled ads repeating the campaign’s biggest “whopper,” the dead wrong assertion that Obama apologized for America during a foreign tour. Its bravura is a fake substitute for courage and vision.

But despite his pretense, the kind of seductive manipulations in which abusers excel, the mirror-smooth reflections used to transfigure truth and closet evil, Mitt Romney claims the peace of the sheep.

Abuse is a cycle. In 2008, America broke away from its pain. In two weeks we will see if America has learned to let go of its false hope: one thing about abusers, they surely promise better but always bring worse.