One of the many painful aspects of being in an abusive relationship doesn’t come from your abuser, but from the other people in your life. The way friends, loved ones and coworkers look at you and talk about you. All the lies and excuses you have to make up, making yourself look like a weirdo so your abuser doesn’t look bad. It turns you into a freak, an outcast, isolating you from the very network of help you so desperately need, much to the delight of your abuser. If you ever let the blame fall anywhere but squarely on your own shoulders, the abuse gets even worse.
Anyone who’s ever been in an abusive relationship knows how hard it can be to leave. You get involved with someone who seems decent, then you get lied to, you get financially entangled, you get manipulated, you get gaslighted, you get brutalized, maybe you get pregnant, and then all of a sudden you’re roped into this impossible tar pit of confusion, self-doubt, self-loathing and self-blame for something that was only ever your abuser’s fault to begin with. And if you ever somehow manage to muster up the Herculean amount of power necessary to blast yourself out of that tar pit, what do your loved ones say to you?
That’s right. “Why did you stay with him so long?”
Not how did you get out. Not how did you manage the impossible task of navigating out of all that mental fog, deception and entanglement while somehow also managing to not get you or your children hurt or killed. They ask why you stayed. Even if you get out, the blame is placed on you, not the abuser.
Bernie’s support for a candidate who is the antithesis of everything he stands for made a lot more sense to me when I realized that he’s in an abusive relationship. Not with Jane (I’m pretty sure she’s a living Buddha), but with the ruling elites of the Democratic party. And everyone’s making him out to be the weirdo.
If you’re a Berner, you’ve heard it before. And I dunno, maybe I’m projecting some of my own stuff here, but that just doesn’t add up for me. Does anyone honestly believe the man who refused super PACs and corporate funding is a sellout? Does anyone really believe the man who exposed the evil internal mechanisms of the Democratic party is a sheep dog? Does anyone really believe the man whose campaign Cornel West called “the highlight of a moral and spiritual awakening in a democracy owing its decline to big money” is anything but honest and good? I don’t. I really, really don’t.
I don’t know for a fact that Bernie or his family were threatened like the rumors say, though I must admit it wouldn’t surprise me at this point. It would still be less evil than the assault on American democracy they committed in the primaries, and certainly less evil than helping to kill a million innocent Iraqis over crude oil. But I don’t know if that happened, and I don’t know if any other pressures were applied to him in secret to make the same rebel who was arrested for protesting injustice now publicly fall in line with agents of injustice.
What I do know is that in order to get a chance to run as the only progressive on the Democratic presidential ticket, Bernie had to make a lot of promises he should never have had to make in order to get the blessings of the party officials and not be shredded to pieces outright by the heavily Clinton-friendly neoliberal media. If he wanted to have a fighting chance, Bernie had to first reassure his abusers that he’d be a good little boy and endorse whoever won the primary without running for a third party. They thought maybe they’d be able to exploit the fruits of his labor later on, so once he’d made the right promises, they gave him a pat on the butt and sent him on the campaign trail with their blessing.
And once he got his hall pass to campaign, he took off like a bat out of hell. Boy, did he ever! He was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. He lit the nation ablaze and captured our imaginations while snuffing out our cynicism in one glorious, inspired motion. He got big. So big his abusers had to shut him down. They thought he’d go away if their media arm ignored him, but people have the internet now, so he just kept getting bigger and bigger. His abusers got scared. The manipulations got bigger. They got caught.
And now we all see them for what they are.
Bernie Sanders is in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party, and so are we. A party that rigs its own primaries to subvert its own candidates, just for serving the interests of the people instead of corporations and oligarchs, is an abuser, and is trying to hold us hostage. Exploiting us with corporate cronyism all these years and then gaslighting us into thinking we were silly for ever believing anything else might have been possible. Assaulting our nation’s democratic process and then trying to manipulate us into thinking it’s normal. Trying to tell us we’ll never get better, that this is all we deserve.
Well, we do deserve better. And as incredibly difficult as it is to leave an abusive relationship, we can absolutely do it. The first step is by pushing all the votes and enthusiasm we can behind Jill Stein, who represents everything our abuser fears, just like Bernie did. They’ll be upset, they’ll throw a fit, they’ll try to gaslight us into thinking we’re doing something wrong, but it’s the only way.
Bernie’s saying we need to support Hillary. The battered wife with the black eye says her husband is a great guy and her clumsy feet made her slip and fall down the stairs. We shouldn’t blame these people for the abusive situations they’re in, we should help them.
Let’s beat their abusers. They gave our Bernie a black eye. Let’s give them two.
[Featured Image by Matt Rourke/AP Images]