There is a word for what occurs in dysfunctional relationships: uproar.
The classic “ power and control wheel” taught at shelters where mostly women are protected from domestic violence shows how intimidating behaviors and violence are used by batterers to maintain control over their partners.
In this case, the relationship isn’t between two people; it’s between the president of the United States and the American people. President Donald Trump and his innermost circle — particularly chief strategist Stephen Bannon — play the role of intimidating partner with relish, and these two have applied their techniques to the entire nation. The p—— grab was always a power grab, and the implicit question — “How much can I get away with?” — hasn’t changed.
Let’s take a turn around the domestic violence wheel.
Privilege: President Trump and Bannon love to be masters of the castle. These are the wealthy, but still ravenously greedy, male members of the entertainment (“The Apprentice”), media (Breitbart News) and financial elites pretending to represent a genuinely disenfranchised working class.
Coercion and threats: Trump and Bannon frequently threaten and insult members of the press who ask questions in the public interest, as well as anyone who is critical of them. The press should just “ keep its mouth shut,” Bannon growls. Bannon has long held that he “ wants to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment,” including Republican and Democratic parties, as well as the press. Trump wields Twitter like a Taser, singling out individuals, companies and anyone who stands in his way.
Intimidation: Trump uses looks, actions, and gestures to intimidate. Why is anyone surprised? He’s an actor without a moral compass, as the Access Hollywood videotape so aptly demonstrated.
Emotional abuse: Trump puts down the United States. He says she’s a wreck, a place of “carnage,” and humiliates her in front of the world. He insults the reporters who ask solid questions, ignores them, or mocks them.
Isolation: Trump is gagging the institutions of government to limit their interactions with the public. Dedicated public servants who do their jobs are fired for insubordination or told to resign. Trump and Bannon’s aim to isolate government from the people is hurried to its inevitable conclusion. The windows in the institutions of democracy are going dark. Trump’s “America First” approach may isolate the U.S. from the world, sowing confusion and chaos everywhere.
Minimizing, denying and blaming: Trump and Bannon make light of the abuse. The refugee ban is going “ nicely” in the airports, Trump said, as the nightly pandemonium and mass protests erupted at airports around the country in response to his crudely-implemented (and cruel) executive order. Trump says the confusion and distress wasn’t a big deal. But we wouldn’t be the great nation we are without our allies and the diverse peoples who emigrated here and built the nation we are today.
Using threats to children: During the campaign, Trump threatened to deport children and young adults who were brought to the U.S. by illegally by their parents, potentially affecting 2.1 million “Dreamers.” That threat hasn’t abated.
Economic abuse: Trump aims to water down or eliminate federal consumer financial protections established after the Great Recession, including those that have generated some $12 billion in restitution and debt relief for about 27 million Americans.
Here’s the deal. There are mendacious and cunningly dangerous people in the White House right now. It’s time for the people who treasure this country and its heritage to peacefully withdraw that power from them and restore sanity. We have to detach from the uproar, cultivate inner and outer peace, and pray and worship as we see fit. We have to reach out to, protect and reassure refugees and immigrants to the U.S., take care of ourselves, our families and our friends. We have to cook great meals, provide shelter for the homeless, eat (and grow) our vegetables, write, and spend time outdoors. We have to run for political office, support libraries and other civic enterprises, do our work well, hold our representatives in Congress to account, get organized politically, and generally pay attention.
To keep liberty alive, for starters, get your information from trustworthy sources — a variety of them from state, national and international outlets. Write letters. Pace yourself. You know what to do.
This also means unplugging. Boycott Twitter. Stop texting. Connect with people in more meaningful, less impulsive ways.
Jennifer Kierstead has lived and worked in Maine since 1980. Her Waterville-based company prepares grant proposals on behalf of national and state nonprofits that serve veterans and children with disabilities, families with low incomes, people with cancer, and people who engage in outdoor sports and recreation.