One of the skills most abusers posses is the ability to slip context without being noticed.
So, here’s what I mean.
You come home from the store, within budget, with everything on the list. You actually managed to get a few of the items on sale and to cash in one or two coupons and you’re feeling pretty good. And, then, unloading the items, he comes to the magazine. You know, the one thing you bought that was not on the list. And he goes ballistic. And, then, a few weeks later, you come home from the mall, having bought, on sale, a dress for his sister’s wedding. You came in under the budget he gave you and he actually likes the dress. And, then, he comes across the CD. You know, the CD that he didn’t give you permission to buy, because you didn’t ask permission, because you didn’t even know that group had a new CD until you saw it at the mall. He goes ballistic.
And, so, then you have “a discussion.”
You, reasonably, argue that both of you should have at least some amount of money that you can spend each week/month/quarter without the other’s explicit permission. If he buys some new fishing lures one week or you buy a bottle of nail polish, that should be OK. If he buys shots for the guys after the softball game or you buy flowers for the guest room when his mother comes to visit, neither of you should have to stop and call the other to check if it’s OK.
That’s your oh-so-reasonable argument.
He doesn’t necessarily agree; he spends most of the discussion explaining in deadening detail why lures and nail polish aren’t equivalent, but, whatever. You think you’ve made your point and that you’re not going to have to apologize if you give $5 to the office pool for Sally’s baby gift.
And then he comes home with a giant, fully-loaded, new truck, bought on loan, that you can never really afford. A week after he bought the giant screen tv.
When you say, “But we’re supposed to be saving $400 a month for a house!” or “We can’t afford another loan and the old truck worked just fine!” he
says, slips the context and says, “Oh! Wait! You were the one who said we should both be able to buy things without getting permission! Now, you’re saying I need your permission to buy something fun for me, but you can buy fun stuff whenever you want!”
And, he’s so
persuasive loud and angry that you don’t even stop to say, “Whoa! I wanted to be able to buy a magazine or a bottle of nail polish without asking you. I didn’t say I could take on a new, multi-year debt or make major consumer purchases without asking you. I compared a CD to fishing lures.” Before the night — and a lot of yelling — is over, however, what is clear is that he can spend money whenever/however he likes and that you now have to get pre-clearance before you buy tampons.
See how the context of the discussion just got slipped?
I supply this example in response to a dust-up this weekend over the NYT’s horrible decision to begin publishing a climate-science denier on its editorial page.
There’s no longer any serious debate: we all know that global climate change is real and is caused by humans releasing carbon into the atmosphere. As humans overpopulate the globe, the problem gets worse and worse. (There’s some debate at the margins over whether we’re merely on the brink of destruction or whether we’ve long since jumped off the Holocene cliff, but there’s no longer any serious debate over whether human-caused global climate change is real.) And anyone who argues otherwise, on the pages of the NYT or elsewhere, is an evil person, weighing in on the side of destroying the planet upon which my grandson and your children will have to live.
And, yet, when a scientist cancelled his subscription and others followed suit, the NYT and others reacted the way that abusers always do.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” they said. “You can’t do that. You’re the ones who said you were for tolerance! You’re the ones who said you support free speech! You can’t stop paying money to the NYT simply because it wants to publish someone whose views are not only demonstrably wrong but also have a very good chance of destroying our only planet! Is your grandson’s life more important to you than free speech, you liberal, hippy, loser? Who are YOU to stand up for facts, you lover of same-sex marriage and supporter of minority religions???? “How on Earth did you imagine that you could buy nail polish without my explicit permission,” they appear to demand, “but that I had to beg you before I could get mud flaps on the new truck we’ll both be paying off for seven years?”
You know, fuck these people.
I have a lot of faults — I do — but I’m not stupid. I didn’t stay with the abuser who wanted to control which magazines, CDs, and nail polish colors I bought and I’m not obliged to stay with the fucking NYT.
First, the American right to “free speech” comes from the First Amendment to an actual legal document: the United States Constitution. I’m a lawyer and we lawyers have, as the abusers I’ve known have painfully come to understand, an affinity for actual words. The First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” So your right, and the NYT’s right, to “freedom of speech or of the press ” is a right to be free from government (“Congress shall make no law”) abridgment (that’s a big word that means “cutting off or cutting short”) of your (or the NYT’s) desire to say whatever you (or the NYT) want to say. If the government’s not involved, as it isn’t when I stop buying your newspaper, then there’s no “free speech” issue.
Second, let’s address the context slipping that goes on here, just as it does when you want to buy some flowers for the guest room and your abuser wants you to have to pay for a new man cave. We dirty fucking hippies advocate tolerance, saying that consenting adults should be able to love whomever they love, worship as they wish, read whatever they want. We believe that grown adults should be able to decide which drugs they ingest, procreate only when they choose, decide when to die. We’re generally in favor of the government staying out of people’s personal lives. Liberal tolerance.
Does that mean that we’re the hypocrites that the Right accuses us of being when we decide we won’t pay for subscriptions to the NYT when it decides to publish climate change deniers?
No, of course not.
There is a clear and material difference between tolerating people’s personal decisions (loving, worshipping, making art, doing drugs, procreating, dying) and paying for a for-profit corporation’s (no corporations are NOT people, my friends) support for climate-change deniers. You can live right next door to me and have an abortion, smoke pot, marry your boyfriend, and it won’t affect me at all. You may wake up every morning and pray to Allah, or Kwan Yin, or Sante Muerte, but it makes no never mind to me. But when the NYT stretches the Overton Window by publishing climate-change deniers, especially on my dime, that impacts me. And I’m not obligated to pay the NYT for harming me and my G/Son that way.
This is what they do. Like all abusers, they slip the context from “You want to buy a magazine,” to “You want people to love whom they love without gay aversion therapy,” to “You have to pay for the NYT to publish climate change deniers who will likely kill your G/Son.”
I’m an old, old woman and I’ve known far too many abusers not to know the difference.
Now, NYT, go fuck yourself. I’ve got a magazine to read, nails to polish, CDs to listen to, flowers to arrange, and money, which I’m not using to pay for your bullshit, to send to some artists I know.
Picture found here.